Stone Brewing Company knows how to do a lot of things well. Not only has the Escondido standard-bearer masterfully harnessed hops to produce a portfolio of outstanding beers, it also has the reputation for throwing a heck of a party. Saturday’s 21st Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival was no exception, as more than 50 breweries invaded the campus of California State University San Marcos.
When you turned 21, you and your friends probably headed out to the local watering hole to obliterate a significant number of brain cells with cheep beer and rotgut well drinks. To celebrate Stone turning legal, attendees came together to raise money for charities such as the Surfrider Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of San Marcos, YMCA of San Diego, Fight ALD! and the CSUSM Foundation. Needless to say, the aftermath of this party was much more productive than the 4-alarm hangover you nursed the next morning during 8 a.m. economics.
It wouldn’t be Stone’s anniversary without a commemorative IPA, and this year’s iteration is called Hail to the Hop Thief Double IPA. The blend of Mosaic and Pekko hops adds bitterness and citrus aromas and flavors to the malty backbone further sweetened with the addition of wheat malt. Clocking in at 9.8 percent ABV, this powerful brew was perfect for the 2-ounce sample size afforded by the festival taster glass.
As expected out of the largest annual beer festival in Southern California, the tap list was a virtual who’s who of the American craft landscape. While a separate area gave attendees the opportunity to sample rarer brews, the regular lineup had plenty of standouts on its own. Besides the impressive selection of beers from Stone’s archives, breweries trotted out special tappings such as Abnormal/J. Wakefield Makaveli and Avery’s Rumpkin and Uncle Jacob’s Stout.
You can’t throw back quality brews without great tunes, and the music lineup provided an eclectic soundtrack for the event. When the festival gates first opened, Euphoria Brass Brand provided its take on traditional New Orleans music both from the stage and in the middle of the crowd. On the two side stages, local groups Jimmy and Enrique and Caskitt played sets throughout the proceedings. The musical highlight of the day had to be the high-energy performance by The Creepy Creeps. San Diego’s iconic cosplaying garage surf rock group did yeoman’s duty goading the crowd into dancing as they themselves sweated away in chimpanzee costumes.
If you missed out on the party this year, you can still snag bottles of Hail to the Hop Thief Double IPA throughout Stone’s distribution network, but be sure to keep your August weekends open next summer.