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The Beer Circle » Stone Brewing Co., Tastings » Z-Bar Meet the Brewer: Stone Brewing Company

Z-Bar Meet the Brewer: Stone Brewing Company

The Z-Bar (also known as the Deli) is a bar in State College, PA that is currently running a series called “Meet the Brewer” on Wednesday nights. Each night highlights a different brewery, and you get a sampler of selected beers paired with a plate of tapas. I recently went to the “Stone Brewing Company” rendition, my first experience in this series. We got 4oz of 5 different beers: Levitation, the Smoked Porter, 11.11.11., the IPA, and Arrogant Bastard. Each beer was introduced by Lee Marren, the Mid-Atlantic Sales Rep for Stone. He explained the history of the beer and discussed some of the flavors, etc. The plate of tapas involved a spinach and feta eggroll (they called it a cigar; tell me that doesn’t look like an eggroll), deviled eggs, potato puffs (also known as high brow tater tots) and a stout cake with cream cheese frosting.

Our beer lineup for the evening

My overall reaction to the event was somewhat lukewarm; there were certainly plenty of positive aspects, but a number of things detracted as well. Starting with the positive, it was generally a fun time. It was unfortunate that they only had tables set for 3 or 4 since we had a party of 6, but we still enjoyed ourselves. It seems like maybe they should try to take counts of the groups, because our friends at the other table ended up having a random couple seated with them.

It was also fairly inexpensive; you can do much worse than $15 for 5 samples and a plate of food. It ended right at happy hour, which was good timing for anyone who wanted to stay longer and drink– I unfortunately had to go home and get back to work. This series is also a really good introduction to people who may not know much about the breweries; all of the things that we tried either were or are widely available in the area, but can be expensive in figuring out what you like. Hearing the background behind each beer was cool, but there were only a few nuggets of information that you couldn’t get from reading the bottle.

Tasty Beverages from Stone Brewing Company

Onto the less great: first off, the food. After the first beer was introduced, we had absolutely no direction of what should be paired with what. A representative from the Deli came around and eventually told us, but we had already started nibbling because it was almost 7:50 by the time she got to our table. Apparently they match food based on body instead of flavors; I thought this was a very peculiar approach. She recommended having the stout cake with the IPA and Arrogant Bastard, when I probably would have recommended the Smoked Porter. The other issue was that it had clearly been plated and sitting out for a while.

At first I just thought the cake was dry, but realistically the inside of the cake was fine, but the edges had been exposed for so long they started to get a crust on them. Plus, the cream cheese frosting was the sweetest one I have ever had; it felt like my tongue was being beaten with a bag of powdered sugar. The deviled eggs tasted good, but the yolk mixture also had a sort of crust on it. The feta-spinach eggroll and the potato puffs weren’t hot, and the puffs were screaming for some salt (the puff texture was very nice though). My friends and I were all so hungry that we ate the food despite these shortcomings, trying to pair based on flavor as we went along. The timing of pouring the beer was also not done well; at some points we were waiting upwards of 15 minutes after we had finished a sample before the next. Other times we had just gotten a sample and they were already coming around again.

The sadly not so great food: deviled eggs, gourmet tater tots (I never thought I would type that), a spinach and feta egg roll, and stout cake with cream cheese frosting.

My last issue of the evening is a function of their marketing: don’t call it “Meet the Brewer” unless there is going to be someone who brews beer for them there. Call it “Meet the Brewery” or something like that, so it’s not blatantly false advertising. I wasn’t expecting to meet Stone’s head brewer, but they need to work on better managing expectations. By adding the “y” it is inherently more accurate. For a lot of the local breweries showcased, the brewer is there, but for places like Stone and Dogfish Head, that is clearly not the case.

When it’s all said and done, would I go again? “Maybe” is the only answer I can come up with, and if so I’ll make sure to eat dinner beforehand. I think that when you compare this to the beer tastings that occur on Tuesday’s at Zeno’s (10 4oz samples + a full dinner for $20), the novelty of a sales rep telling me a story that’s mostly written on the bottles wears off quickly.

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Written by Paige Deckert

Paige is a fifth year graduate student at Penn State; she received her craft beer education while bartending during undergrad at the University of Illinois. Over several months, Rogue’s Dead Guy served as her gateway beer, because it was $2/pint on Thursdays, and thus offered the highest ABV/$. This eventually turned into enjoyment, and everything is history from there. Her first legal beer was Robert the Bruce on cask at the Blind Pig in Champaign, followed by the Duchess de Bourgogne. Paige has visited over 15 breweries, including Great Divide, Bells, Jolly Pumpkin, Three Floyds and Dogfish Head, with plans to add more in 2012 via trips to San Diego, Phoenix, and Austin. Paige became friends with Russ (and subsequently Garrett) when they became friends on untappd. She clearly remembers seeing a check-in of his and thinking, “Who is this clown checking into Miller Light at the Shandygaff?” Soon thereafter he introduced himself at a Zeno’s beerfest, and they bonded over their beer geekery (sans adjuct lagers). Find Paige Deckert on Google Plus

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