February marks the five-year anniversary for Stillwater Artisanal Ales, a brewery distinguished by its avant-garde brews and haute-couture labels, and the company's founder, Brian Strumke, says he's always looking to push himself further in his goal of turning beer into art. Stillwater was created "as an outlet for my artistic expression and the goal was to deliver a high quality product to the market that was unique and progressive," he told us via email.
His brand has become wildly successful, but Strumke found that his beers were constantly being "lumped in the Belgian category" and judged as an entire portfolio rather than being graded one beer at a time. Determined to break that mold, Stillwater is releasing the Contemporary Works collection in February with three new beers that will make it harder to pigeonhole the company and will demonstrate the range and versatility of Stillwater.
Strumke writes, "the first three beers in the series 'Mono,' 'Stereo,' and 'Surround,' refer back to my days as a music Producer and DJ." Mono is a dry-hopped Pilsner, Stereo is an India pale ale, and Surround is an imperial oak smoked wheat stout. He expects to have them ready for consumers in time for his Feb. 13 anniversary.
"Stillwater IPA??? WTF, right?" is the first line on the press-release description of the Stereo IPA, a nod to the notion that an IPA wouldn't be a special release for any other brewer but Strumke.
He explains. "I know (a Stillwater IPA) will come [as] shocking to some, but I came into the beer world through the back door and just worked backwards. Most breweries start with a standard line of contemporary beers to keep the ship afloat and then do more experimental beers as occasionals or seasonals. Well, my 'standards’ are far from standard."
He likens the line of beers to the works of Picasso and Dali, who "were at some point challenged by the art world, so the response was to deliver works of realism to quiet the critics and strengthen themselves."
The three-beer set is just the opening act for Contemporary Works. Strumke says that future releases in the collection will be "based on Dada concepts, specifically modeled after Duchamp's 'Readymade' works."