As a deep purple dusk set over Byron Bay, a large woodfire crackled in the courtyard of our brewery last Friday night, throwing long shadows across an intimate crowd of brewing friends – chatting in groups, beers in hand – who’d travelled here for our Stone Brew Day.
An annual tradition and brewing ritual, Stone Brew Day is an event that brings our close friends from the beer community together, to help us prepare our annual Stone Beer – a limited woodfired porter that we release every winter. To fully appreciate the meaning of Stone Brew Day, it helps to know some history.
Hailing from Northern Europe, stone brewing was used across Scandinavia, Russia, Germany, the Baltics and the British Isles; the Norwegians stoned brewed from as early as the 7thcentury. Back then, copper and iron kettles were prized, expensive pieces of technology and weren’t available to the common farmhouse brewer. As more and more brewers began to afford kettles around the mid-16thcentury, stone brewing began to die out … but not everywhere.
At Stone Brew Day, we honour this tradition by heating stones on a woodfire and – while they’re glowing red – lowering them inside a metal cage into the wort (the pre-fermented liquid that later ferments into beer) inside the kettle, lending Stone Beer a rich, caramelly flavour that matches the hints of coffee and dark chocolate.
Like every year, this Stone Brew Day was a cracker, with our guests getting involved across the brewing process by placing a stone into the firepit and pouring the malts into the mill. Toward the end of the evening, we stood together to watch as our brewers Josh and Mick lowered the red-hot stones into the kettle, which erupted with a plume of steam and sent a wave of hoots and applause through the crowd.
Collaborating with us on the night were our friends at 100 Mile Table, who operate our canteen inside the brewery. An array of modern Asian canapés roved throughout the brewery on the night, each matched with one of our all-year and Pilot Batch beers poured fresh by our Tasting Room team. Light snacks eventually rolled into a long-table dinner with baked salads, lamb and polenta dishes featuring local autumn produce.
While we continue to grow as a team and a brewery, the significance of Stone Brew Day remains. While it’s awesome to show our friends the brewing process, the mere opportunity to come together for a cool autumn’s night of food, beer and stories is why we continue to hold the event; Stone Brew Day is a time for community and sharing – an event that our brewing ancestors would have enjoyed.
And things only get better. As you read this, Stone Brew 2019 is brewing away in our tanks in preparation for our biggest party of the year … Festival of the Stone.