Thursday, November 21, 2013

Right in the Stones: Camo Pale Stout by 5 Stones Craft Brewery

Over the last several years its been compulsory for many start-up breweries to inaugurate the chalk-boards above their freshly-printed tap handles resting behind their gorgeously repurposed bartops with an impotent India Pale Ale of sorts, maybe an inoffensive version of the brewmaster's collegiate go-to *Amber Ale (cloned from the 90's-alt-glamor of Fat Tire), and if the brewery is particularly plucky, perhaps a Belgian Blonde Ale, so that the company can deliver its most insipid pun to the bourgeois on the other side of the counter.

For pedantic beer jerks like myself, we often require a huge reminder that all of that is completely and totally acceptable.  Utterly and positively okay; encouraged, in fact.  These operations are dependent on the tit of sustainability throughout infancy -- especially considering that a brewery's distant success is gauged on the the immediate impact of angel investors, a motivated staff, and the dousing of the community's desirous thirst.  I'm cool with that.

As 'Ye informs, 'Ya gotta crawl before you ball'; and for those breweries shooting for preservation and survival before their desire for beer nerd rep -- a totally useless currency by any measure -- self-gratification comes in the form of the little things, like paying employees a consistent wage and, you know,  avoiding total insolvency.

Eventually, sure, the expectation of most beer zealots like myself, i guess, is for the brewery to progressively impress us and help us vent our livers during the nights and weekends.  Perhaps even surprise us with something hypeable or flashy or imperial or cellarable or something aged in a European hornets nest fermented with 100% Brettanomyces.  Nobody desires that surge of hype more than the brewers themselves.  It just takes a bit of patience from everyone, is all.

But every now and again comes a real non-conformist brewhouse who is sneaking illicit materials into the Freshman dorms and enduring to brag about it; a brewhouse whose creativity bypasses skepticism because our boundaries of doubt are breached by their compass of imagination.

5 Stones is a brewery located in the gray area of Pre-San Antonio, where one has to ease on the accelerator of the Honda or risk cavity spelunking by one of Texas' infamous highway patrol outfits.  It is also a geographical oddity for having produced turbo-boss runningback Malcolm Brown, right there in the middle of goddam nowhere.  Its one of life's big mysteries -- like how poor people all own iPhones -- that Cibolo has churned out both an exceptional football player and an exceptional brewery in 5 Stones.

5 Stones originally debuted with a wise little saison -- a very clear departure from the average amber ale -- cleverly named "0 Anniversary" to denote the fact that they intend to tear up your back 7 with the Power-I for many, many years to come.  That was their warning shot.

Since 0 Anny, 5 Stones has maintained its resistance to the IPA seduction, and has instead formulated a red ale, a quadruplet of Autumnal fruit beers, and the beer I am talking about specifically in this piece: Camo Pale Stout.

¿Pale wat?


For a brewery with its head down and focused -- so much so, that their website is painfully neglected of good info about their beer (how many people do they have over there, exactly?) -- 5 Stones has the worldly awareness of similarly insular artists, like a Francisco Goya or maybe a Win Butler.

Camo is indeed as white as a Montreal hipster, but because it was brewed with the traditional characters of a properly-pigmented stout, cocoa nibs, and espresso beans, it catches you off guard like a fucking butt slap.  Upon first pour, the beer is an open throttle of bombast: heavy aromatics, grounded bitters, and sweet carbohydrates.  It begins as a crazy foreign chocolate, may even a crazy foreign coffee.  It was really impressive.  Fucked up in the brain, but impressive.

But as I climbed through it, and examined its elevations and volumes and layers and valleys, it becomes a bit fat-tongued and a little clumsy.  Carbonation continues to be a fickle old fucking bastard, too.  Perfectly acceptable given the explanation on its window dressing - "Batch Number 1" and the presumed chemistry that had to be laid out to make it all possible.  Fuck.  This is really impressing me -- but in the way that you can see the depth of this brewery and the potential for its excellence despite its inexperience; squeaky laminate butting up to the groaning ancient floorboards, contemporary ideas in brewing meeting the wise old narrative of beer.

Camo is bursting with optimism, novelty without kitchiness, interesting and culturally satisfying.  I'm assuming that beyond impressing me with a developed amber ale from college, they'll instead impress me by improving a ridiculously fun beer.

And I'm down with that too.

Follow [AA] on twitter and listen to Draught Punk.

ABV 7.8o%
Acquired East 1st Grocery
Can I Find This in Austin? Not widely, best bet is the place mentioned above.
Album Pairing Neutral Milk Hotel | In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
☆ (in 2013)

*dibs on calling my start-up's first beer "You Remember Amber.  From College."  Too wordy?