Jason Fields & Kevin Sheppard / Tröegs / Stone Cherry Chocolate Stout
San Diego homebrewing duo Jason Fields and Kevin Sheppard submitted their Cherry Chocolate Stout for this year’s Stone March Madness Homebrew Competition and AHA Rally, taking top honors out of 40 entries that were judged. As a result, they earned the opportunity to make a dramatically scaled up version with Brewmaster Mitch Steele on the 120-barrel Stone Brewing Co. system.
“We didn’t have any expectations going in,” explains Jason. “We’d just entered the competition just to get some feedback and notes on our beer.” Kevin adds, “The fact that we did win was absolutely surreal.”
“There were A LOT of really good beers that day,” recounts Mitch, one of the judges at the competition. “With each entry, we asked ourselves two simple questions: 1) ‘Is this a really creative beer?’ and 2) ‘Is this a really good beer?’ This one totally fit the bill.”
Once the beer was decided on, an additional brewer had to be selected to complete the collaboration. Deciding to bring in John Trogner, Head Brewer of Pennsylvania’s famed Tröegs Brewing Co., was a no-brainer. “We make a holiday beer called Mad Elf, which uses a ridiculous amount of cherries,” explains John. “Plus, we’ve done a lot of brewing with chocolate. So I’m guessing that had something to do with why I was asked to pitch in.”
The rich, smooth stout was brewed in late April, with a blend of dark-roasted specialty malts, Callebaut chocolate liquor, vanilla beans, and 9000 pounds of dark and tart cherries. “Seeing how much the recipe was blown up to brew it on this system is amazing,” Jason chimes in. “And getting to work with everybody… it’s been so cool.”
“Collaboration beers are a big part of showing what our industry is about,” concludes John. “And it’s a lot like homebrewing: you think up an idea, invite your friends over, and brew it. There aren’t many other industries that can work that way, and I think it says a lot about what we do.”
Tasting Notes from Brewmaster Mitch Steele
“The taste is that of a very smooth stout, with an intense tart cherry beginning and a cocoa smoothness dominating throughout the palate. The tartness from the cherries balances out the smooth sweetness, and the addition of cacao and vanilla beans add intricate layers of chocolate and vanilla to the flavor profile. Definitely a beer to savor slowly and evaluate as it warms and changes in your glass.