Friday, April 22, 2011

Stone Brewing's Here. What's the Fuss?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Greg Koch, CEO and Co-Founder of Stone Brewing - KRISTINA COLEY
  • Kristina Coley
  • Greg Koch, CEO and Co-Founder of Stone Brewing

So Stone Brewing's selling their beer in Missouri. What's the big deal?

Greg Koch, the company's co-founder and CEO came to Missouri to kick off Stone Brewing's debut. His second order of business in St. Louis, after a beer-pairing lunch at Pi, was to gather members of the food press at International Tap House to chat.

Why? Because he enjoys it.

CEOs doesn't have to visit new businesses selling their products. But most CEOs aren't sporting temporary tattoos of their own screaming faces on their hands, either. Koch does both.

  • Kristina Coley

Koch co-founded Stone Brewing in San Diego County, California, with Steve Wagner, which he jokes happened because they were brewing too much beer for it to be a hobby and were veering into "having a problem" territory. That was fifteen years ago, and Koch, still a self-professed "beer geek", loves gathering with fellow geeks and talking about beer. Which brings him to new markets like St. Louis.

Stone Brewing's philosophies focus on quality and uniqueness above mass appeal. "I fundamentally appreciate that people will choose great quality if the bad options aren't there," he said.

So far, it's worked. The company boasts 39% growth per year. In 2006 they opened a new brewing facility that allowed them to increase annual production from 36,000 barrels to 115,000 barrels last year. The facility's capable of producing 250,000 barrels a year.

It took Stone Brewing a long time to arrive in Missouri, their 36th state and the last with major metro areas that can support a craft beer community. "We haven't entered new states without being able to supply them," said Koch.

The company has a two requirements before going through the legal red tape to distribute in a state. First, there has to be enough demand for their beer that they can fill the shipping trucks. Second, there has to be enough interest and enthusiasm to keep sending those trucks so beer isn't languishing on the shelves and losing quality.

Twenty-four Stone Brewing taps lined ITap's wall during the meeting, with only nine available. The rest were tapped at an event Thursday night. That's a lot of beer to meet the demand. Koch said, "It always confuses me when people complain about too many choices." Which might be why the company produces several IPAs while others stick to just one.

  • Kristina Coley

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