I sat down with "Star Trek: The Next Generation" actor, science fiction author and home brewer Wil Wheaton to share a bottle of the pecan-laced imperial stout and to discuss the genesis of the project and what it was like to turn pro brewer for a day.
Wheaton said he took up home brewing more than two years ago as a way to connect with his adult son, and that he was quickly hooked by brewing's melange of art and science. When Stone's Brewing's founder and Chief Executive Greg Koch -- a longtime friend of Wheaton -- asked the actor if he would be interested in working on a collaboration beer with the Escondido brewery Wheaton said he replied, "Who says no to that?"
The wheels were in motion, and soon the third member of the collaboration team was added: news site fark.com founder, beer geek and mutual friend Drew Curtis.
It was Curtis' idea to create the beer version of Derby Pie -- the chocolate, pecan and bourbon confection from his native Kentucky -- and the recipe for an imperial stout that used wheat, rye and pecans soon followed.
To reinforce the Kentucky bourbon connection, a portion of the brew was aged in used bourbon barrels for more than two months then blended into the finished beer. The results are a 13% alcohol stout that is rich, thick, and complex.
Wheaton is no stranger to brewing equipment, but he said being turned loose in Stone's production brewery made him feel like he had a golden ticket, "I think we made Fizzy Lifting Drink jokes more than once [on the brew day]" he said.
The change in scale of the brew -- from making five gallons of homebrew at a time to hundreds of gallons of beer in Stone's brewhouse -- also made an impression on Wheaton: "I remember I cut open a sack of grain to crush on brew day, and it was like 40 pounds [of grain], then I cut open a second sack of grain, and I said to Greg [Koch], 'this is more grain than I've used in 2 1/2 years brewing every other week.'"
Tickets to the event are sold out, but bottles and growler-fills of the collaboration brew are available at Stone Company stores in Los Angeles and San Diego.