Stone Brewing Company, a Californian institution in the craft beer scene, announced July 19th, 2014 that they would be opening a new brewery in Berlin in 2016, making Stone the first American brewery to own and operate in Europe. For Greg Koch, CEO and co-founder, it has been a long time coming, having first announced in 2009 his wish to open a brewery in Europe. After looking at more than 130 different sites in nine different countries, Stone finally found its perfect match in Marienpark in Berlin, which satisfied their criteria of combining historical property with a space large enough, yet still in the city center, to build a restaurant destination and gardens.
The pride and joy of the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens is a 1901 gasworks building (measuring 4,000 square meters) that will be renovated into a 600-800 seat restaurant. What is Greg’s vision for this destination? Greg gushes, ‘It won’t be like anything you can find anywhere else. We are building an incredible restaurant […] with a really interesting design. You won’t find rows and rows of tables like a traditional Bavarian style restaurant.’ Greg is adamant that the menu will be eclectic and organic, with ‘no burgers and fries, no chicken sandwiches, no currywurst or Wiener schnitzel; nothing typical. It will be a creative menu and we’ll have 40 beers on tap, [meaning] we will probably have one of the better selections of German craft and specialty beer in all of Germany.’ Among the 40 beers on tap, there will also be the usual Stone suspects, including their iconic Stone IPA, Arrogant Bastard Ale, and Stone Ruination IPA, though you will have to wait a bit longer for their famous Pale Ale as it will not be brewed right away.
When asked how Stone Brewery hopes to assimilate into the Berlin craft beer scene as an American company, Greg was quick to respond that he doesn’t want to. Greg states, ‘craft beer is about pushing boundaries, so it’s not that you have to assimilate into it, you can come and be yourself. In fact, to me that is what craft beer wants, for you to bring your own style and personality to the game, not just copy what is being done by someone else.’ Greg says the local craft beer community in Berlin has been incredibly supportive and he hopes to collaborate with them in the future. In fact, Stone will start brewing 13 different styles of specialized beer in Berlin for their Stone Groundbreaking Collaborations, where they will pair up with other breweries around the world to brew some pretty innovative and rare beer. Unfortunately, the campaign and pre-sales are over, but fear not; Stone will have these special brews available in 750 milliliter bottles for purchase.
Worried about how an American brewery will be received by the German population? Greg’s not. When Stone first opened in 1996, not too many Americans knew what craft beer was or even tasted like. Therefore, convincing Germans to come around to the idea of craft beer, as Greg reveals, is not exactly a challenge. He continues, ‘our job is to make amazing beer and it is really up to other people to decide for themselves if they like it or not. People will come around when they want to, we don’t try and get them to come around. [Of course] we give them a good reason to come around, like if they ever say ‘I’m willing to try some beer,’ then we have to have good beer available to them so they can say, ‘wow, this is actually pretty good stuff.’’ This philosophy has worked for the company up until now, and Greg hopes it will continue to be the case. Greg’s real challenge with opening a new brewery in Berlin lies in the paperwork. The paperwork involved with the regulations and technicalities surrounding converting a historic building into a place of business is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Stone definitely has their work cut out for them, and due to the nature of their renovations no exact date is set for the opening in 2016 just yet, though they are hoping for spring.
If you are feeling impatient and really need your fix, or are curious to try what all the hype is about, then you are in luck. Greg reveals, ‘we have a special release event on December 7th, which is the first time Stone Berlin beers will be released.’ The lucky three beers, which can be found at select bars in Berlin and across Europe, will be the Stone IPA, Arrogant Bastard Ale and Xocoveza Mocha Stout, which is a spiced chocolate stout modeled after Mexican hot chocolate. This amazingly delicious Stout is seasonal and Greg warns, ‘we are only brewing a couple batches for the release event, so when it runs out it will be gone until it comes back next year.’