Ich Bin Ein Berliner Brauer: Greg Koch Announces Stone Brewing Co. – Berlin

On July 19, 2014, Stone CEO and Co-founder Greg Koch stood before an esteemed crowd of European friends, compatriots, media and soon-to-be-neighbors in Germany to announce that Stone Brewing Co. is coming to Berlin. The site of the announcement was the historic former gasworks that Koch and company will transform into an equal-parts traditional and modern campus including a state-of-the-art brewery, packaging hall, restaurant and gardens. The following is the speech Greg gave, which lays out Stone’s reasoning, logic, plans, philosophies, passion and intentions for its new space and future in Europe…

Guten abend! Es ist mir eine grosse freude sie heute abend hier zu begrüssen.

As CEO and Co-founder of Stone Brewing Co., it is my sincere pleasure to welcome you. We are here today to celebrate something we are wildly enthusiastic about: fine…uncompromising…delicious…craft beer. And there’s no better way to celebrate it, than to share some with our friends…all of you. Cheers.

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The future site of Stone Brewing Co. – Berlin, located at Lankwitzer Str. 45-57, 12107 Berlin, Germany

And speaking of friends, I’d like to acknowledge our friends in the craft brewing industry who have honored us with their presence today.

I see craft brewers from as far as Poland, Hungary, Northern Italy, Scotland, from all over Germany and, of course, from here in Berlin.

To make sure we’re giving a proper nod to the beer industry, and not just Stone during this event, I asked the event manager to survey average beer drinkers from Germany and other Europeans they found about what they felt were the very best beers on the market, so we could make them available to you, our guests. This is a grand assortment of what the populace feels best represents beer…

[At this point a canvas was pulled off of a stack of beer that turned out to be all industrial beers from a wide variety of countries.]

What the? Oh my. This is embarrassing. Scheisse. THIS is what people feel represents the best in beer? Well, this most certainly does not represent beer in my world. This is the industrial facsimile of beer and it has no place here.

This is what we call “fizzy yellow beer.” Schaales gelbes bier. This is not what Stone is about. We stand for more than pandering with cheap, commodity beer.

I can’t very well have this standing next to me as I share with you our special announcement, now can I?

I know!

[James Watt of Brewdog and Paulo Fontana of Birra Baladin come up and confer with Greg off the microphone.]

Excuse me for just a moment…I’ll be right back.

[As James and Paulo open the large door to Stone's future home in Berlin. GK retrieves a forklift with a boulder on it and proceeds to drive up to the stack of substandard suds and drop the boulder on top of the problematic stack of industrial beer.]

That’s better. Now that I have that corrected…and I suppose I made a bit of a mess, but hey it’s nothing compared to KuDamm last Sunday night after the final World Cup game [referring to Kurfürstendamm street, Berlin, where thousands gathered to celebrate until the wee hours after the World Cup win, leaving thousands of broken beer bottles in their wake]…speaking of which, congratulations Germany! You are Weld Meister!

OK, let’s get back to the business at hand…

This is a historic moment for Stone. I’ve been wanting to say these next words for many years: Stone is coming to Europe. Stone is coming to Germany. And more specifically, Stone is coming to BERLIN!

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CEO & Co-founder Greg Koch toasts Stone’s soon-to-be-neighbors

It’s been a long time coming. It was back in 2009 that we first announced our intentions to be the first American craft brewer to own and operate our own brewery in Europe. And now we’re doing it. But it’s not been without a lot of searching for just the right location.

I wanted to select a spot that was in a city of historical and cultural relevance. I wanted to find a unique property with historic structures that could also offer the ability for us to grow. I also wanted a place where we could build a magnificent restaurant and gardens of natural, rustic beauty.

My partner and co-founder Steve Wagner also had exacting specifications as to where we could locate, as he insisted specifically that in our search throughout Europe it be…and I quote…“Anywhere but France.”

In all seriousness, though, we wouldn’t have settled for just anywhere. The search was exhaustive. We put a great deal of thought into where we wanted to be and spent an incredible amount of time traveling Europe, ultimately inspecting more than 130 sites in nine countries. In fact, a location in the spectacular Alsace region of France actually made our top-three list, so we were just kidding about the earlier comment.

And all that searching has brought us to where we stand today—the capital city of Germany. Berlin is most certainly incredible. And so is this location.

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The story of this beautiful property began in 1901, and for a hundred years it was a critical part of the industrial infrastructure of the region. Now, what was once a gasworks building nearly unchanged for more than a century will be reborn, with one foot firmly in the past…a time when artisanship and craftsmanship meant something; when people didn’t just make things, they made them right; and the pride of a job well done was every bit as important as bringing home a paycheck…and one foot pointed in the direction of the future…where traditions are respected, but not blindly followed just because, “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it,” and we’re not afraid to take risks and go down new paths just because no one else thinks it’s a terribly good idea.

At Stone, we never limit ourselves to what people say we’re supposed to do. Instead, we follow our muse to create things we believe are truly great.

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Guests from far and wide assembled at a semi-nondescript red-brick building with nothing but a cryptic and über-vague invitation to go by

For centuries, brewing has been a noble art… an art of and for the people. Tragically, over the last several generations years, industrialization and pandering to the lowest common denominator have fueled brewing’s deterioration into a mere commodity. So much so, that most of the world no longer thinks of brewing as art. Far from it. Instead, they view it as something devoid of character to be purchased as cheaply as possible.

True, there have always been and continue to be brewers who have maintained the integrity of their art over the centuries. However, their work has largely been ignored by the average beer drinker in recent decades. The masses have instead been held sway with an endless barrage of advertising schemes and degradation of the art at the hands of pricing wars and accountants. Decades of consolidation and mass-homogenization has led to a loss of understanding of beer among the populace. Just try and explain saisons, IPAs, imperial stouts, American strong ales, or Belgian lambics to the uninitiated, and it’s a nearly impossible task as the beer drinker of today has been left with little frame of reference to understand the language of craft and artisan beer. In fact, many are confused just by the two words “craft beer.”

I hear people speak with apparent pride about “beer purity,” without them understanding what the phrase actually means, while at the same time accepting commodity brewers’ open adulteration of their beer…apparently without even noticing the irony.

If someone ever comes here and mixes our beer with sugary soft drinks, sweet lemonade or colored, flavored syrups, they will be asked to leave. If you choose to allow your beer—or your good taste as an adult—to be insulted, that is up to you. However, we will not tolerate it.

I believe we have a responsibility to bring forth our best possible work at all times, and nothing less. Ever.

This is the overriding ethos that guides everything Stone does as both a company and as a force for positive change. In addition to our admittedly aggressive, style-bending brewing, we are also known throughout the U.S. for railing against the industrialization of beer from something artisanal to something shallow.

Over our 18 years as a brewery, we’ve built a well-earned reputation as a company with intense drive, substance and individualism. We’ll be the first to admit that we’re different. That’s always been the case…and we’re proud of it. No, not everybody understands us or appreciates our aspirations. However, we know we’re on the right track for us. And it’s that track that has led us here today—the future home of the Stone Brewing Co. and Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – BERLIN!

We’re sure people will laugh at us. People will say we’re crazy. Some people will even say we’re stupid…dummköpfe.

I love that.

Let me explain.

Over the last few years, as I’ve made multiple trips to Germany looking at a variety of sites and, eventually, focusing on this one, I’d inevitably find myself in conversations with random Germans in bars over beers. At some point I’d mention what I did for a living, and they’d raise an eyebrow and ask what I was doing in Germany. Researching perhaps how to copy German beer styles to take back to the U.S.? No, I’d say, “I’m looking for a place in Europe to build a brewery and bring our styles over here.” “In Germany?” they’d ask incredulously. “Perhaps,” I’d say, “Germany is one of the countries we are considering.”

The reply I’d get was almost always the same: “A brewery? In Deutchland? But you’re American.”

I could see the thought behind their eyes “This guy doesn’t look that stupid, but that’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”

When I’m asked, “Aren’t you afraid Europeans won’t like Stone’s style of beer?” I simply chuckle and reply in all honesty: ”That’s O.K. When we opened in 1996, Americans didn’t like our style of beer. Even people in our own hometown didn’t like it. And many still don’t today.” But times have changed, palates have evolved, and Stone has grown to be the 10th largest craft brewing company in the United States. Some people love our beer. And we love brewing it.

Soon, the building in which we now stand will unfold a new chapter.

You see, this isn’t about building a manufacturing plant that just happens to produce beer. This is about bringing Europe a taste of our vision for craft beer. Just as we breathe new life into this historic space, we will join the German and European craft brewers who together are breathing fresh air into this country’s, and this continent’s, storied brewing culture.

As you know, a gargoyle is our emblem. It stands for our commitment to quality, character and an uncompromising approach to our craft. We respect our art, and we respect our fans. Period. Total respect, zero compromise. This is what Stone stands for. These are the simple philosophies and ideals we will bring with us across a vast ocean to implant in the soil on which we now stand.

Total respect. Zero compromise. We are the Stone Brewing Co., we are proud to be your brewery.

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We’re lucky to be a part of an industry where our would-be rivals are actually our friends. The American craft brewing industry, nay the craft brewing industry as a whole, is largely one of compatriotism over competition. This spirit also exists here in Berlin, and as I look into the audience, I see a strong representation of Berlin’s awesome craft brewing spirit and skill. I’d actually like to invite all our craft brewer friends in attendance, including our Berlin brewers of course, to stand up here with me today in solidarity of our movement.

We look forward to uniting with these leaders and other craft brewers. Together we are mighty, and we will change the course of beer in Europe for the better.

And not just here. We are also looking for another site in Berlin where we can build a separate Stone Brewing TapRoom. Berlin will not be our second home, but our home. Many years ago, a famous American came to Germany and proclaimed proudly: Ich bin ein Berliner. I look forward to a day in the very near future when we at Stone will be able to proudly shout from the rooftops of our German brewery: ICH BIN EIN BERLINER BRAUER. I am a Berlin brewer!

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The first of many, MANY future instances of brewers coming together at Stone Brewing Co. – Berlin

Thank you to all of you for coming today. I am proud to have been able to share this momentous occasion of our announcement with you!

I appreciate you all. We couldn’t have done this without your help, your inspiration and your friendship…and we’ll need that going forward. We hope to return it in kind.

Now, let’s enjoy more food, music, and of course, beer!

Check out some of the press clippings on our Stone Brewing Co. – Berlin project…

Berliner Kurier

CNBC

Der Tagesspiegel

FOX News

USA Today

U-T San Diego

Home Run: Stone Beer at the Ballpark

The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” evoke memories of sunny days, the scent of fresh-cut grass and the sharp crack of pine making forceful contact with a small, red-stitched orb. There’s nothing quite like baseball season. America’s Pastime stirs the souls and passions of people from all walks of life—young to old, blue collar to white collar, West Coast to East Coast. It also appeals to both craft beer fans and people who don’t give a rip what they swig while they take in the boys of summer, so long as it’s ice cold, triple-hopped, cold-filtered or [insert lame, meaningless macro-beer company's Madison Avenue-developed buzz term here]. For so long, those enthusiastic about quality beer and baseball had to forgo the former when enjoying the latter, which makes us all the happier that, this year, we were able to debut a number of ballpark craft beer options for those seeking ales of substance in our hometown. This is a major accomplishment that comes after many years of hard work and negotiation to gain access to the prestigious Petco Park. Check out our new locations then visit them the next time you take in a San Diego Padres game.

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The most prominent of our ballpark spots is the Stone Brewing TapRoom. Located adjacent to the stadium on the edge of the lush, green Park at the Park, it’s a 4,800 square foot space we spent the first quarter of 2014 converting from a wine bar into a craft beer refuge matching the décor of our industrial-modern Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens restaurants. In many ways, it’s a scaled-down version of the Stone experience (we even have shelves of merchandise including baseball-themed items custom-made for this space), but you can expect the same vibrant flavor Stone beers are known for. A line of 12 taps keep our brews, including special releases, collaboration beers, and even unique casks and small batch creations, flowing.

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Stone Brewing TapRoom’s similarity to our Bistros carries over to the fact they serve up tasty edibles made from farm-fresh ingredients, some of which are harvested from our own Stone Farms. A pizza oven churns out an array of warm flatbreads. And we’re not talking boring pepperoni or Margherita. Our menu includes a spicy Thai curry Jidori chicken flatbread, barbecue duck with pineapple salsa and Stone Levitation Amber Ale BBQ Sauce, Arrogant Bastard Ale smoked pork and cheddar bratwursts with beer cheese, and a potato pie with Stone Farms kale and white sauce, to name a few. Our locally famous hemp seed pretzels and hummus are also available along with salads and a duo of desserts—the Arrogant Bastard Ale brownie Sundae and Stone Smoked Porter beer floats. The full menu is online. Best of all, Stone Brewing TapRoom is open all year long, so a devout love of baseball isn’t a requirement. (Though, during the season, you can see the games broadcast via the exterior Jumbotron on the ballpark’s perimeter—a definite bonus for sports fans!)

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So, we have your pre- and post-game imbibing needs covered (not to mention your entire off-season), but what about during the game? We’re glad you asked. Perched on the fifth floor of Petco Park between Sections 307 and 309 lies an aerial oasis just a footbridge removed from the macro-beer and processed foodstuff (not to mention ALL THAT KETCHUP!) being passed off as sustenance. We finally worked our way into the ballpark, so our fans can now enjoy Stone beers in a palm tree-adorned outdoor beer garden along with a sweeping view of downtown’s East Village and the San Diego Bayfront. It’s a beautiful space in keeping with our motif that even includes a stencil of our logo that fans can take a photo with. We encourage that as well as sharing your photo on social media using the hashtag #ImWithGargoyle.

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In addition to these new Stone-devoted spots, you can also get our beer from carts and craft beer-centric stands located on Petco Park’s concourse leading to field level seating. It’s awesome to see a major San Diego sports venue embracing one of the things that has made our county the focus (and envy) of the rest of the nation. No matter the outcome of the game, nine innings spent watching the Friars now feels like #winning for sure.

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#IMWITHGARGOYLE

Terminal Velocity: Stone Lands at San Diego Airport

We all know what we’ve come to expect from a visit to the airport, the whole experience can, and often does, inspire utterances of the phrase: “I need a beer!” Well, fliers, both frequent and infrequent, we have heard your cries and are doing our part to elevate the air travel experience with the installation of Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens at the San Diego International Airport (SDIA).

Stone Farms’ Solid Roots Exposed

In 2010, we caught wind that a vital business in our hometown of Escondido, California was in a world of hurt. That struggling institution was a 19-acre farm called La Milpa Organica from which we sourced some of the ingredients used to craft our pan-global cuisine at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido. Despite valiant efforts and a ton of elbow grease, La Milpa Organica went out of business by year’s end. As supporters of the farm-to-table movement and proud advocates for our corner of the world, we took advantage of the fact that we had the resources to do something to keep a center for organic farming in Escondido alive. So, rather than bemoan the loss of something good, in March of 2011, we went outside our craft beer box, took over the farmland, then proceeded to stand there, pitchforks in hand a la American Gothic with an OK-now-what look on our faces. Such was the beginning of life on Stone Farms.

Give Us Liberty (& Give Us Beer)!: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station

They say good things come to those who wait. Fermentation has proven this true for us time and time again; however, we are, at our core, pretty darn impatient. We have grand aspirations and want to push the craft beer envelope by providing new ways for people to experience hand-crafted ales and lagers. Grand aspirations require grand gestures. Grand gestures take grand effort. Grand effort mandates a boatload of time, and that equates to a whole lot of waiting for our grand aspirations to be forged into reality. Never has this been truer than in the case of construction of our second farm-to-table restaurant, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station. It took us years to take it from the grand aspiration phase to the tangible and absolutely magnificent (if we do say so ourselves, and we just did) brick-and-mortar bastion of good beer and quality cuisine it’s become. The waiting was the hardest part, but, once again, it was all worth it. Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station is open for business and Worthy all of the hard work it took to get it to that point. Allow us to show you around…

The main dining room at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station

Beer, Baseball & Patriotism: Operation Homefront IPA

Craft beer is life here at Stone. In the best cases, however, our beer has the ability to make positive impacts on the lives of others. Such is the case with one of the first beers brewed up on our brand new ten-barrel brewhouse at our equally new second farm-to-table restaurant, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station: Operation Homefront IPA. Liberty Station Brewing Manager Kris Ketcham joined the ranks of several brewers across the country to craft this beer for Operation Homefront, a non-profit organization supporting and bettering the lives of U.S. Military families, as part of their Hops For Heroes initiative. That program was supported not only by American craft breweries including Left Hand Brewing Company, Cigar City Brewing and 21st Amendment Brewery, but also Major League Baseball and Louisville Slugger, making for a great example of strength in numbers being channeled into making a big difference through great beer and even better intentions.

Ground Breaking Ceremony: Stone Packaging Hall

Just like the universe, we’re expanding. All the time. You may recall from our big announcements back in May 2011 that we were embarking on a $50M+ expansion plan to include several new adventures including: Stone Farms, Stone Catering, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station, and arguably the coolest of all, the Stone Hotel. While some of those super sweet items have already been completed and others (like the Liberty Station restaurant and hotel) have been slightly delayed, we’re very excited to announce that ground has officially been broken on the brand new Stone Packaging Hall!

So what does that mean for you? Simple: MORE BEER. You see, we’ve been working ’round the clock to get our new 120bbl brewhouse installed next to our current one, but it’s displaced quite a few fermentation tanks. The bottom line? We’re running out of room!

Stone Packaging Hall renderings

Stone Packaging Hall renderings