[Photo by Matthew Curtis]
Few breweries can represent the past, present, and future of American craft beer the way Stone Brewing can. And it’s co-founder, today’s guest, Greg Koch, has been known to speak authoritatively about the entire timeline of craft beer at times. And with good reason—he’s seen and participated in most of it himself.
For some, though, his voice can sometimes seem anachronistic. It hearkens back to old, perhaps out-of-date realities of the business that can be jarring against new challenges and priorities for small, independent American brewers—and increasingly those inspired by American brewers overseas.
How Stone has navigated the shifting priorities of craft beer has been varied over the years. Sometimes they seem to double down on their initial ethos. Other times, they seem to abandon it altogether. But looks can be deceiving.
So this conversation—my first interview with Koch—was an opportunity to hear what some of those decisions have meant to him and Stone over the years. And why they may or may not be in conflict as he and the brand trek back and forth across the ocean in what might hopefully turn out to be a straight line toward some long-term goal. But as can so often happen in this business, it might eventually reveal itself to be a lost-at sea scenario just as easily. It’s almost impossible to tell when the waves are constantly crashing and the winds are constantly shifting and so many people want a hand on that wheel.
In this interview, we talk about Stone’s place in the world then and now—growth and layoffs and private equity, breaking off brands like Arrogant Bastard, social media, sabbaticals, and finding the yin and yang with a co-founder. There’s a lot to cover. And I greatly appreciate Greg’s willingness to riff on so many different topics that are important to him, or me, and often both.
This is Greg Koch of Stone Brewing. Listen in.