Stoneface x Siren
Bringing the juice, all the way from New Hampshire
Photos: Stoneface Brewing Co.
Saturday 08 April 2023
This article is from
Siren's 10th Birthday
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It’s snowing in New Hampshire when we catch up with the chaps from Stoneface Brewing. It’s snowing here in Edinburgh too, but while Erol Moe and Pete Beauregard are hoping the fresh powder will allow them to ski after work, the best I dare hope for is not falling on my arse on the way home. Not for the first time recently, I wish Beer52 would hurry up and organise a New England box.
Erol and Pete homebrewed together for a long time before setting out professionally – “you know, tale as old as time,” says Pete drily – a move they only took at the insistence of friends who had already made the leap. Despite being a tiny state, the small population had a big thirst for craft beer, and there was no doubt in the pair’s minds that another microbrewery (there were around 30 at the time) would find a market.
Pete continues with the story: “We had a business plan, and were fairly certain we could raise some money from investors, friends and family. We ended up getting a 15 barrel brewhouse – anything smaller wouldn’t have been commercially viable – and we even had our branding worked out. There used to be a very iconic landmark in New Hampshire, called the Old Man of the Mountain, a rock formation that looked like the profile of an old man. It was everywhere, on license plates, road signs… The author Nathaniel Hawthorne gave it the nickname Stone Face in a short story, so that’s what we went with.”
Well, almost. Despite being in the opposite corner of the country, naming a brewery Stone Face did raise some questions about a certain well-known San Diego craft brewery and, more importantly, how its lawyers might view such a move.
Despite being a tiny state, the small population had a big thirst for craft beer
“We actually ended up talking to [Stone Brewing founder] Greg Koch, and he said ‘as long as you don’t separate Stone from Face, we’re all good’. So that’s why we’re Stoneface, rather than Stone Face!” says Pete.
Having got the greenlight from their friends on the West Coast, Erol and Pete pulled the trigger and bought their brewery within a couple of months, started brewing at the start of 2014 and sold their first beers that February. Starting out at a very respectable 800 barrels that year, Stoneface has more-or-less doubled its output every year since, up to roughly 12,000 in 2022. The original site is getting a little cramped now though, so a new bespoke brewing and warehousing facility is currently under construction just along the street.
Beer-wise, this was 2013, and the race for bitterness had just about hit its peak in the US (though would still rage in the UK for many years). Stoneface, like many breweries not deeply embedded in the West Coast powerhouse, had started to look for something a little different.
Erol says: “We were all coming off of the 100-IBU, super-bitter IPAs, so we tried to look at the three or four very iconic IPAs in the United States at the time – Union Jack from Firestone Walker, Heady Topper, Lagunitas IPA, Heady Topper – and it was clear to us there was a room for something relatively high ABV, that was hazy, that was very hop-forward, but which also didn't have that ‘take the enamel off your teeth’ bitterness.
“So there's really no magic in this, you just change the process so you’re not pulling out so much bitterness during the boil. We did a lot of trials at home to figure out where we wanted to go, and realised we really liked it a little bit sweeter; so it's kind of like Lagunitas IPA, which they mash at a very high temperature to keep more unfermentable sugars, and then a lot of dry hopping and a lot of late boil hopping. That beer sort of gave us some direction and inspiration towards what ended up becoming Stoneface IPA.
“We don’t do many collaborations”, Erol continues, “but when we do we try to find like-minded people that are interested in similar beers. It's more about building relationships and understanding what's going on in people's breweries, not necessarily from a technical perspective, but because just hanging out with people on the same wavelength can be inspiring.”
Erol met Siren founder Darron Anley at a hop selection out in Yakima Valley, after hours at a local bar that everybody goes to. “I see this guy who's kind of got my look and is wearing a shirt that I loved; it had this big ‘S’ and a witchy character in the back. I was kind of aware of Siren, because my brother lives in England and he's a beer fan as well. So I had been peripherally aware of the brand. So then I find out this guy is the owner and we have a similar backstory in terms of the inspiration for why we started our breweries and what we do now. So we kind of became best friends that night, and by the end, we’d swapped shirts.”
We don’t do many collaborations, but when we do we try to find like-minded people that are interested in similar beers
One of the main points the pair seem to have bonded over is their shared love of hops. When I gently probe Erol on whether hops have the same megastar status that they did in 2013, he seems almost puzzled by the question.
“I mean [innovating with hops] is kind of the low hanging fruit honestly, like there's so many different variations you can play with in so many different ways,” he says. “If you break down all the ingredients – water, hops, malt and yeast – you can only turn the dial on those other things so much. Yeast is probably the next most versatile. But with hops, there’s like 100 new ones you can try every year, if you’re connected to the people developing them.
Pete jumps in here; “And now there’s new formats coming out, like Cryo, Spectrum and Lupo Max. We take a lot of inspiration from the food world, and love collaborating with chefs. And hops today, with all these advanced products, always make me think back to food, because they can be layered in a thousand different ways, and we're just scratching the surface with that right now. That's part of the fun, you know, there's all kinds of crazy stuff that you can do. And it's a blast to see how these things come out.”
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