BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: The flip side of Stone’s Berlin farewell.


I believe there are times when all of us can be found on both sides of a particular issue. Consequently, yesterday I made reference to Stone’s withdrawal from its Berlin facility, to be replaced by BrewDog.

BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: “Farewell Stone Brewing Berlin: Too Big, Too Bold, Too Soon.”

I’ve never been a fan of BrewDog; not an enemy, either. Stone’s a different story, and I retain a soft spot in my three-sizes-too-small heart for the San Diego brewery. I’ll never forget Stone founder Greg Koch’s visit to the Public House in August of 2007. There’s a photo somewhere, but no matter.

As usual, Jeff “Bluegill” Gillenwater offered a clear-headed take.

Hmm… I appreciate Stone’s early efforts in the U.S. but I’m not sure I exactly jive with much of what Koch has to say here. Suffice to say, the list of long-standing German beers I would choose over a Stone IPA is long and typically pretty accessible in lots of parts of Germany.

For the remainder of the day yesterday, even before Bluegill commented, my thoughts kept returning to Stone’s (and Koch’s) German experience.

I’m a fan of Greg Koch, who with his Public House visit gave me a nice boost when I needed it most. I’m a fan of Stone’s beers … which I drink quite seldom these days, and there’s the rub: I’ve long since boarded the pendulum swinging back to the traditional German (and British, and Belgium) way of drinking beer and thinking beer.

And, I don’t want these traditional notions to disappear any time soon. We went to Munich and Bamberg last December and did/ate/drank almost nothing that wasn’t old-school. That’s a big part of why we went there in the first place. Do I like the idea of American-style “craft” beer flooding Europe? That’s a hard question to answer.

Maybe I’d say yes insofar as a beer drinker in Berlin appreciates choice. Maybe no if it means Berlin becomes more like San Diego and less like Germany. Maybe my answer has changed over the years, and will again.

As such, I think Bluegill rightly looks to the points in Koch’s explanation of Stone’s retreat as a major source of dissonance. Here’s an excellent take on the Stone situation, which riffs heavily on Bluegill’s observation.

Pay especially close attention to the comments. It isn’t so much that both sides of an issue are in play. There actually are multiple sides, multiple issues and something not entirely convincing as it pertains to Koch’s reading of them. Thought-provoking, indeed — and extending beyond beer into many more cultural considerations.

The Hubris of Stone Brewing, by Jeff Alworth (Beervana)

Who knows if Stone might have made the Berlin project a success by building a bridge between two cultures. But the failure to even try is surely the centerpiece of this story. BrewDog, which has modeled their business strategy on Stone, will take over the keys to the building. It will be fascinating to see what changes they make and whether they learn from Stone’s actual mistakes, or double down on the narrative of cocky disruption.