Exclusive: Stone Beer Shares Recipe for Discontinued Levitation Ale

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Saying goodbye to a favorite beer as it’s discontinued is never easy. Especially with brands that have been around for an extended period—”legacy beers,” if you will, that represent a previous generation of American craft brewing, people form emotional attachments. Stone Brewing Co. knows this, but it hasn’t stopped them from experimenting, especially lately, in reinventing some of their older products or replacing them with new versions that better fit the evolving market. That’s simply what it takes to remain on the forefront of the craft beer industry.

One of the recent casualties was the classic Stone Pale Ale, the first beer ever produced by the brewery 19 years ago and its one-time flagship. When they announced that it would be discontinued, the blow was softened by a unique addendum: Stone would open-source the recipe as it were, essentially giving the beer to homebrewers worldwide as a gift. Now, any brewer can make their own Stone Pale Ale.

When we ran our own story on the recipe announcement, it generated a lot of positive debate on Facebook in particular, but also some questions. Most notably, a Paste reader named Rickey LaFlamme voiced a burning question: “Where was a recipe share when they canceled Levitation Ale?” Right about then, I realized he had a point.

Levitation Ale was Stone’s “session beer” long before that term had acquired marketability in the craft beer community. Brewed since 2002, this lightweight, 4.4% ABV, dry-hopped American amber ale has possibly been my favorite year-round brew from Stone, highlighting both its caramel malt backbone and more than a subtle charge of citrusy Pacific Northwest hops. It’s a wonderfully balanced, characterful beer. And so, I was personally disappointed to see it was being discontinued (along with Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale) when it was announced back in February. A few bottles are still on the shelves now, but in the near future the beer will join Stone Pale Ale in the Hall of Fallen Beers.

LaFlamme’s question, therefore, made me wonder: If Stone was happy to release one of their recipes to the internet, perhaps they’d want to release another? It couldn’t hurt to ask, so I reached out to the brewery’s PR team, who forwarded the query up through the chain to owner Greg Koch and brewmaster Mitch Steele, who created Levitation Ale 13 years ago. This week, we got our answer, the official recipe for Levitation Ale, which we’re now happy to premiere. Paste has premiered plenty of music over the years—we’ll happily drink to adding “beer recipes” to the list.

Like the Stone Pale Ale recipe, this one has been meticulously scaled down from a commercial production sense to fit a homebrewer’s typical batch size of 5 gallons. Really meticulously—it’s 14.4 ounces of Crystal 75L, and don’t forget the .4! Being a homebrewer of 7 years myself, this is particularly interesting for me—I may have to brew my own version of it and see how well it stacks up against Levitation Ale in my memory. For now, though, simply enjoy the recipe and instructions, which I’ve copied below in full. Further recipes are also available in the Stone Book, The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance, which is one hell of a title.

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Stone Levitation Amber Ale
5 gallons (about fifty-four 12-ounce bottles or thirty 22-ounce bottles)

8 pounds, 8.0 ounces crushed North American two-row pale malt
14.4 ounces crushed 75L crystal malt
8.3 ounces crushed 150L crystal malt
1.3 ounces crushed black malt
About 8 gallons plus 12 cups water

0.28 ounce Columbus hops (12.9% alpha acid)
½ teaspoon Irish moss?
0.90 ounce Amarillo hops (8.5% alpha acid)
0.90 ounce Crystal hops (3.5% alpha acid)
0.26 ounce Simcoe hops (13.0% alpha acid)
1 (35ml) package White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast or WLP002 English Ale Yeast
0.77 ounce Amarillo hops (8.5% alpha acid)
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons light dried malt extract

I can’t stress it enough: clean and sanitize everything.

Mashing
In a 10-gallon insulated cooler, combine the malts with 3 gallons plus 2 cups of 173°F water. The water should cool slightly when mixed with the grain. Hold the mash at 157°F for 30 minutes.
Add 1 gallon plus 12 cups of 182°F water. The mixture should come up to 165°F.

Lautering and Sparging
Once the liquid is lower than the level of the grain, begin to slowly sprinkle 3 gallons plus 14 cups of 168°F water over the grains to start the sparge. Continue sparging.

The Boil
For safety’s sake, set up your propane burner outside. Set the brew kettle of wort on top and add water to bring the wort level up to about 6 gallons plus 12 cups, if needed. Bring the wort to a rapid, rolling boil. As it begins to come to a boil, a layer of foam and scum may develop at the surface. Skim it off and discard. Once the wort is at a full boil, put a hops bag containing the Columbus hops in the kettle and set a timer for 90 minutes. Stir the wort frequently during the boil, and be watchful to avoid boilovers.

At 15 minutes before the end of the boil, stir in the Irish moss. At 10 minutes before the end of the boil, put a hops bag containing the 0.90 ounce of Amarillo hops in the kettle. When the boiling time is over, turn off the heat and put a hops bag containing the Crystal and Simcoe hops in the kettle. Cover the kettle and immediately begin cooling the wort quickly.

Pitching the Yeast and Fermentation
Once the wort has cooled to 72°F, discard the spent hops and check the specific gravity of the wort with a hydrometer. The target starting gravity is 1.048 (12 Plato).
Transfer the wort to the primary fermentation bucket or carboy. Pitch the yeast (or prepare a yeast starter). Allow the wort to ferment through primary fermentation at 72°F, then transfer the wort to a carboy for dry hopping and secondary fermentation.

Dry Hopping
Put the 0.77 ounce of Amarillo hops in a hops bag and put it in the carboy. Seal the carboy with the drilled stopper and an airlock filled halfway with water and ferment at 72°F.

After 7 days, dry hopping is complete. Remove the hops bag and discard the hops. Check the specific gravity of the beer. If it’s reached the target final gravity of 1.013 (3.2 Plato), it’s ready to bottle. If not, allow it to continue fermenting at 72°F until it reaches the target.

Bottling
When you’re ready to bottle, clean and sanitize the bottles, caps, and bottling equipment. Put the dried malt extract in a medium saucepan and stir in just enough water to dissolve it. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and let cool slightly. Proceed with bottling.

Advanced Recipe:
85.0% crushed North American two-row pale malt
9.0% crushed 75L crystal malt?
5.2% crushed 150L crystal malt?
0.8% crushed black malt?
Conversion temperature 157°F [10 minutes]?Mash out 165°F

0.108 lb/bbl Columbus hops (12.9% alpha acid) [90 minutes]
0.35 lb/bbl Amarillo hops (8.5% alpha acid) [10 minutes]
0.35 lb/bbl Crystal hops (3.5% alpha acid) [0 minutes]
0.10 lb/bbl Simcoe hops (13.0% alpha acid) [0 minutes]

White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast or WLP002 English Ale Yeast
Pitch rate 12

0.30 lb/bbl Amarillo hops (8.5% alpha acid) [Dry hop, 7 days]

Starting gravity 1.048 (12 Plato)
Final gravity 1.013 (3.2 Plato)
Ferment at 72°F

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