Stone Brewing Co. celebrated their 15th Anniversary on August 20th at Cal State San Marcos and I was fortunate enough to have two VIP section tickets for me and my fiancé, Sean. The weather was hot and sunny, which made for a beautiful afternoon. The event was split into two sections: general admission (sessions A & B), and the VIP.

Being wide-eyed and overly excited, I ran into the general section before I even noticed the VIP arrows in the upstairs meadow. Happily, I was able to pre-order the new book The Craft of Stone Brewing Company: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogancefrom Warwick’s (a local book store) in the main event which meant I was able to purchase 1 bottle of the following choices: 2010 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine Aged in Bourbon Barrels, 2010 Stone Old Guardian BELGO Barley Wine Aged in Bourbon Barrels or 2010 Stone Old Guardian BELGO Barley Wine Aged in Wine Barrels. We ordered three books so we could get three bottles- one of each. Can you tell I am a fan of Stone?

When we finally found our way out of the madness that was the session A crowd, we found the VIP section to be open and comfortable with no crazy crowds. I am not a crowd person so having the space to roam in between the two booths for rare beer and talk to fellow beer geeks was completely worth the extra ticket prices. I had a great time talking to John Holzer and Stephen Johnson of New Brew Thursday and Patrick Rue, CEO and Founder of The Bruery. “Dr.” Bill is always so fun to hang out with, but I am convinced he is a secret ninja because every time I spotted him he would disappear again way too quickly.

Included were only ten tasters out of a choice of 47 different rare beers… how could I make these types of choices?!

The nice thing about having too many good beers to choose from is you are very unlikely to get a bad beer. At the least, you might give something three stars on, which is still pretty damn great.  Here are some of the highlights from what I tasted:

15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA by Stone Brewing Co.: “Hoppy Amazingness black IPA with a chocolate-brown head.” ABV: 10.8, 100 IBU’s. We drove over to Stone Brewing Co. after the Anniversary event and bought a case of this…that should tell you how damn good this is.

12th Anniversary Bitter Oatmeal Chocolate Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels by Stone Brewing Co.: “Great sting of bourbon with a sweet forgiveness of chocolate creaminess.” ABV: 9.6%

Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin Ale by Ballast Point: “What?! Even the head is spicy!? This beer poured with a huge head and was way too spicy for me. The beer still had really good flavor.” ABV: 7%.

SKA Local Series #12 Merlot Stout by SKA Brewing: “Really smooth stout with flavors of coffee and slight hops.” ABV: 9.6%. This helped a lot with my Sculpin burn.

AleSmith/ Mikkeller/ Stone Belgian Style Triple Ale: “Amazing Triple, fruity and spicy and light. But, of course, Mikkeller seems incapable of making bad beer so I expected as much!” ABV: 8.7%.

Double Bastard (2005) by Stone Brewing Co.:  “Fantasmic! This beer pours amber red with a sweet forefront and a hoppy background. I could sit around and drink this one all day long.” ABV: 11.2%

Stone Brewing Co.’s proceeds go to worthy non-profits such as: The Boys & Girls Club of San MarcosThe Palomar Family YMCAThe Surfrider Foundation, and Fight ALD(Sawyer’s Triple also benefits this charity) . Maybe I just like that I can tell my mom that I am going to a charity event instead of a beer event! It’s really admirable the charity work that Stone Brewing Co. does, and, to me, it just makes the beer taste even better. Cheers to 15 more years of fantastic beer from Stone Brewing Co.!