Young and Hungry

Stone Might Open a Brewery in Europe

Southern California's Stone Brewing Co., makers of Arrogant Bastard and a panoply of big beers, announced yesterday in a web video that they are considering opening a second brewery across the Atlantic. They will release a request for proposal (RFP), a sort of open call for business proposals, allowing any number of business models to be pitched to them. It's not 100 percent certain that the brewery will go through, but CEO and co-founder Greg Koch sounds pretty upbeat about it in the video. And should it happen, this will be a very big deal for several reasons:

  • Redefine "microbrewery." – Good beer, craft beer, or whatever you call it, is growing. By industry definitions, "microbrewery" means an output of less than 15,000 barrels/year. Anything between that and 2 million barrels is considered a "regional brewery," which includes many household names such as Dogfish Head, Magic Hat, and Victory. By contrast, MillerCoors puts out about 50 million barrels a year. Good beer is still just a sliver of the market, but as the breweries grow, acceptance of good beer will climb exponentially as major outlets (restaurant chains, airlines, sports stadiums) see them as a profitable product instead of a marginal outlier.
  • U.S. beer evangelism – When Stone released its flagship Arrogant Bastard in 1997 (!), it became one of the progenitors of extreme beer and of the hop-philic mentality that, for better or worse, is America's face in the world of beer. Some larger craft breweries export to Europe in limited quantities, but a brewery on the continent would be a big step in that regard.
  • Freshness. – Freshness is critical to enjoying a hop-forward brewery like Stone. Hop oils are volatile and degrade quickly, so an old IPA, or even anything less than a spanking new one, loses the floral aromas that accompany it from the brewery. Like pilsners in Prague or bitters in London, West-Coast IPAs just aren't the same by the time they reach us. Koch acknowledges this in the video, and says that freshness is one of the reasons they'd like to brew abroad rather than export.
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