Greg Koch of Stone Brewing: Pre-tap takeover Q+A

Have you ever been to Switzerland? And will you attempt to eat Swiss chocolate or Swiss cheese or drink a Swiss beer first?

Yes, I visited Switzerland in 1995. Stayed one night in Interlaken at Balmer’s. Not really my scene. Went on to two nights in Grindewald. Wow. Spectacular. Will be taking my spouse Sara back to Grindewald on this trip.
I’m a huge fan of the artisanal cheeses of Switzerland. I would love to start off my visit with some Swiss artisanal cheese and a great Swiss craft beer! While I’m sure there must be good chocolate made in Switzerland these days, I honestly couldn’t be less interested in the typical industrialized “dump tons of sugar, cocoa butter and lactose in it” version of chocolate, any more than I’m interested in industrial beer. Perhaps someone will bring me some awesome artisanal Swiss chocolate to try? (Hint hint!)

You often have to answer the same questions over and over again. Which question are you never tired of answering? Why?

I don’t get tired of talking about beer, but yes, I do get asked the same question over and over again! Two questions in particular: I get asked what my favorite beer is. And I get asked how I started. The first question is impossible to answer, and the second has been answered countless times…easy to Google the answer to that one!
However, I can talk about beer all day long, and that’s why I do what I do!

How do you handle these “tap-takeovers”? Little speech from the top of the bar? Just hanging out?

I love talking with folks about beer, so I’ll simply be hanging out and enjoying with everyone else. However, you never know when inspiration strikes, so a short speech is entirely possible. You can expect a celebratory cheers from me, definitely, but from atop the bar? Who knows!

You coming to Switzerland (and I presume travelling to other countries too) suggests that you will not just produce beers for the location in Berlin and Germany but plan to export. So is this the beginning of a beautiful relationship, meaning that the day after the tap-takeover we’ll find Stone beers in bars, restaurants and eventually grocery stores?

It IS a beautiful relationship! Stone Brewing – Berlin will be the center of our universe for Europe. Yes, our beers will begin being officially available in Switzerland starting in June. Our goal is to get the freshest beer possible to as many of our fans as we can. This Tap Takeover is the official beginning of what we hope to be a VERY beautiful relationship!

While in the US you fight over tap-handles at the Burbank airport, in Switzerland we most of the time don’t even have more than two tap-handles and those two are under contract with a big brewery in Switzerland. What role can Stone play in order to break this up?

The people play the real role in this. By patronizing bars and restaurants that have refused to sell their tap handles to the highest bidding industrial brewer, the people are supporting a change in the system that has historically prevented them from having free choice. More and more across Europe “free houses” are saying no thanks to big brewer control, and are instead curating their own beer lists. Stone participates in this by helping to grow the awareness and demand for great beer, and that demand then manifests itself at bars, restaurants and markets. Once business owners learn that it’s a better business model to make free choice, than it is to sell their beer rights to a big company for a check, then the system begins to change for real. It’s all about the economic results for the bar or restaurant owner. Who’s going to go across town for the same old industrial beer? No one. Who goes across town for something special and unique like what we’re doing at the International Bar? Lots of people (we hope!).

You’re coming to us on a “school-night” and people might have to pace themselves. Which three beers should they definitely drink though and why?

I haven’t been to Switzerland for years, and this is my FIRST public appearance. Folks can’t cut themselves a little slack to have an extra beer? Lol. OK. If you MUST pace yourself, I’d definitely suggest giving Stone IPA a try. It’s the iconic west coast-style IPA and our flagship beer. That, and our Arrogant Bastard Ale. Both are currently being brewed in Berlin. After that, I say try whatever interests you. We’ll have quite a selection. Everyone has different preferences and palates. The beauty of craft beer is that there’s a huge range of characteristics and levels of intensity for people to enjoy. And I plan on enjoying along with everyone else that evening! I’m looking very forward to it.

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