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With distinguished titles like Chief Judge of the Australian International Beer Awards, Chairman of the Craft Beer Industry Association and Head Brewer at Stone & Wood, you might think Brad Rogers spends his days in a sun-drenched penthouse overlooking Byron Bay, reclining in a leather chair with a goblet of exotic beer, stroking a white cat and deciding, on a whim, the future of craft beer in Australia.
It may therefore surprise you to know that this is, in fact, not the case. Rather, youâre far more likely to find Brad Rogers within the bowels of the brewery set in an industrial estate well out of sight of the picturesque bay, with a slightly sweaty brow, shovel in hand, digging out spent grain.
To those outside the industry, it mightnât be the perceived image of a man who holds such eminence within it, but itâs an image entirely in tune with the ethos at Stone & Wood. Like so many others across the country, this is a brewery run on hard work, heart and sense of community. And few things epitomise those qualities better here than the brewing of their annual Stone Beer.
âStone Beer,“ says Jamie Cook, Stone & Wood co-founder along with Rogers and Ross Jurisich, âis something we love doing because it really brings Stone & Wood to life, and it reinforces what really drives us as a brewery.”
The creation of the Stone Beer is a homage to bygone times, when beer was brewed in wooden vats rather than steel and the heat to boil the liquid came from the immersion of superheated rocks rather than direct flame. Itâs a long, slow, manual exercise heating the stones on an open fire until they glow white-hot, but thatâs entirely the point.
As Jamie suggests: âBrewing is a very elemental craft and heating stones up in a wood fire and adding them to a kettle full of ‘juice’ of the grain certainly helps you realise how grounded the essence of brewing actually is.â
These days you might call the method primitive, but equally you could call it traditional. And with most definitions of âcraft beerâ in an apparent state of confusion, tradition is at least a strong pillar onto which craft beer can lean. By choosing to brew the Stone Beer as they do, Stone & Wood not only help keep this brewing tradition alive but also build one of their own; 2013 represents the fifth incarnation of their Stone Beer. And while the tradition remains very much the same, the beer itself evolves each year.
“This year we added some Chocolate Wheat to what was already an eclectic grain bill,” says Jamie. “Another tweak this year was the addition of a relatively new hop from Hop Products Australia called Enigma. The beer is looking good in the tank, with the Enigma giving a little boost of fruitiness to the malt character across the middle palate, and then the chocolate wheat kicks in with the hops to give it a long bitter chocolate finish. The beer is still very much in that big dark Germanic ale mould in a sort of Bock meets Porter union.â
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