Brew Review: No. 18 Brewery X Stone Collaboration

By Chris Foste, March 14, 2019

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201804/foste.pngThat's columnist Chris Foste is a bearded beer fanatic whose frothy pint glass of knowledge flows over with wisdom on the wetting of one's whistle. 

The craft beer community is a jovial one, seeking innovation by brewing the best and most unique beers, then lie back and sip them out on a sunny patio on a pleasantly warm day. While some companies begin to focus more on the business, quarterly earnings and profitability of beer, the center of the society still revolves around brewing with friends and creating an atmosphere that craft novices and brew veterans alike can appreciate.

Collaboration brewing is quite common in the brewing industry, as brewers can poke and prod each other for information of their own brewing experiences, learn about new ingredients and methods, and create a good marketing campaign with limited availability beer. One brewery that propels craft camaraderie throughout the industry is Stone Brewing, who recently paired up with No. 18 Brewery from Wuhan. At the Stone Taproom in Shanghai, I found myself sipping on a flight of No. 18 beers, and had a chance to catch up with the head brewer, Karl Jiang as he described his brewing process.

Image via Chris Foste

Before delving more into Karl and his beers, the Stone Taproom itself needs to be discussed because the technical equipment they use to sustain a superior product is a beer geek’s wet dream. There are 28 beer taps in total at Stone, eight core products and 20 rotating brews. Starting from their cold room, the beer emerges from the kegs cold, down the glycol-chilled beer lines before being dispensed cold into the glass. During every step, the beer is chilled, perpetuating Stone’s meticulous obsession with excellent beer. 

Image via Chris Foste

In addition, Stone Taproom is the home of Asia’s only flux capacitor. No, not the one Doc Brown installed into his DeLorean, this one controls the amount of carbonation in beers. When drinking a stout vs. an IPA vs. a red ale vs. a pilsner, all of those beers should use different amounts of carbonation; the bubbles inside the beer that bring all that fresh foam to the top of the pint glass. Generally, all draft beers in Asia are connected to a single CO2 tank and dispense gas at a single level, high or low, depending on the beer. The flux capacitor can dispense any combination of CO2 and nitrogen (what gives Guinness it’s creamy quality) to any specific tap, so two beers being poured on the same system can have completely different carbonation levels without affecting either one’s quality.

Ok, beer geek rant over. Let’s get back to the beer!

Starting in 2000, No. 18 first began as a live music venue in Wuhan. It wasn't until 2012 did Karl Jiang come into the picture and by 2013, Karl helped convert a giant jam lobby into a full-blown brewery, turning No. 18 into No. 18 Brewery. Through his beers, Karl has constructed a bridge between craft culture and the Chinese way of life, which provides a delicate touch to a community often overloaded with intense IPAs and syrupy stouts.

Image via Chris Foste

The first beverage from the two breweries was the Napa Green Shore Spring Session IPA, which at 4.6% refreshingly slides down the throat and into the gullet. Using a combination of green tea and earthy hops, there were no strong fruity flavors hidden in this beer, as it finds inspiration from the Chinese tearoom. With a clean taste, it felt just like drinking cold green tea with only a bit more body.

The second collab brew was quite unique because a 12.3% ABV beer should not drink that smoothly. Imperial stouts frequently ride the line between beer and syrup, but the Liberty Station Red Lantern Imperial Stout was exceptionally light for a barley wine-esque beer. Light just barely passes through this imperial stout, while the aroma of rich Yunnan coffee lofts up from the glass and into the nostrils. Karl explained that by using coffee beans in the first mashing stage and in the final dry-hopping stage, instead of the hop boiling stage, the aroma and flavor became more pronounced in the beer instead of the bitterness.

Image via Chris Foste

Along with the two collab beers, No. 18 brought along four of their own brews. The one that caught my taste buds was the Gold Medal Coffee Saison, possessing a symphony of strong flavors dancing on every tip of the tongue. The main factor in brewing beer is finding a balance in the flavors and not to overwhelm drinkers with any single acute flavor that jolts the senses. Named for its award-winning prowess, the balance of bitter coffee and sour saison melded perfectly in my mouth. Pushing the boundaries while still making a drinkable product, Karl nailed this one. 

As love for craft beer flourishes, the bond between beer and culture strengthens, inspiring creativity across the industry. If you missed the collaboration pop-up at Stone, be sure to find your way to Wuhan for No. 18 and their culturally influenced recipes.

[All images courtesy of Chris Foste]

Read more of Foste's columns and brew reviews

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