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Greg Koch: ‘Aussies, don’t buy Stone. Please’

November 19, 2010

This week has seen a great discussion sparked by Australian Brews News’ call to boycott beers that are on sale against their brewers wishes.

Is Greg Koch arrogant? Click the gargoyle to find out…

This morning I spoke with Stone Brewing’s Greg Koch, one of the loudest exponents of the “Don’t import my beer” brewers.

In the 20-minute interview Greg canvasses many of the arguments raised this week and puts forward his point of view and reason for being so cautious with his beer, including.

  • To make sure of the quality of their beer when it gets to the consumer, Stone has purchased their own distribution company comprising all refrigerated transport to get their beer across Southern California and also ships refrigerated across the country.
  • They don’t export to Canada and their beer isn’t even available in every US state.
  • They have even pulled out of some States in which the beer moves slowly.
  • It’s important for the industry to respect the beer – Greg says retailers selling bad beer has hurt the US craft industry in the past and it happens here too.
  • “If you are a retailer selling damaged beer, you’re hurting the industry”
  • He is even keen to come down and do some collaborations with our own brewers.

There is obviously much more in the interview. If you have engaged in the debate this week, have bought Stone beers or are just interested in good beer it’s well worth listening to. Having spoken with Greg about it previously and read his comments online, I was already convinced myself. Listen to Greg, see what you think.

I invite you to to share your thoughts on Greg’s point of view in the comments below. Let us know whether, having heard it, you agree with our call not to buy grey imports against the express wishes of the brewer.

You can listen to the audio (much better quality sound) or watch Greg discuss the issue below.

Listen to the audio




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17 Responses to Greg Koch: ‘Aussies, don’t buy Stone. Please’

  1. Brendan McAndrew on June 7, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Man.. ship to australia then!!! I’m from the Bay Area and Ruination is the best beer in the world. Beer here in australia is super expensive and super terrible. I can count the microbreweries in Sydney area on one hand.. so even the most spoiled skunked stone is 100 times better than any Aussie beer, so don’t think your argument holds water here.

    • Brendan McAndrew on June 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm

      Afterthought.. if your only selection of beer was crappy pilsners and lagers, and the word “hop” in San Diego was only associated with ‘scotch’ there is no way you would pour a spoiled skunked Stone down the drain.

      And its an exageration extremely, I know Stone well (as I’m from the Bay Area) and have drunken it in Australia as well.. and its not so much worse.

  2. […] à todo os estados dos EUA e não são exportadas nem para o Canadá. Greg Koch, CEO da Stone, em entrevista para o Australian Brews News, é categórico quando diz que “quem vende cerveja ruim, prejudica toda a indústria”. […]

  3. Just A Guess on November 24, 2010 at 3:19 am

    If I had to guess, I’d guess that the lack of “specialty beer drinkers” in Wisconsin was not the reason Stone had to leave. Stone tried to get into one of the richest beer markets out there and failed. Tuck your tail between your legs and go home, stop blaming WI.

  4. Stu on November 22, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Nice one Matt… good interview.

    On the whole I thought his argument was good, and he almost had me doubting myself, but then he mentioned the environment like he’s a a friend of the earth (afer he’d talked about shipping all over the US in refrigerated shipping!).

    The next step, I guess, is for you to get together a list of those who don’t want their beers shipped via greymarket. Or at least do some sort of survey.

    • admin on November 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm

      Yes, I’m quite happy to keep the environment out of this debate given that if we followed environmental considerations to their logical conclusions very few of us would be drinking beer at all unless we were in very narrow bands of latitude that grow barley and hops! Still, from memory he was confining those comments to the mass transport of identical lagers only to see another brand of identical lager coming the other way.

      As for the list,there is a fairly limited list here: http://www.brewsnews.com.au/grey-market-imports/

      I have made contact with other breweries who have indicated unofficially elsewhere that they don’t ship their beer here and if I get replies I will add them. If not, I guess they really don’t care after all.

  5. Michael Vanderlaan on November 20, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Yep, I understand where Greg’s coming from, and Stone’s strict control of supply, even in the US, indicates his commitment to quality over profit. Hats off to him.

    So, what shall we do here ? Matt, how’s your beer grey-list coming on ? Where is it again ? How about we establish a grey-importer list ? Most of these beers have little white labels stuck on them indicating who brought them in. You know, if enough noise is directed towards the retailers and the importers, then there just might be some action, if that’s what most people want.

    And, it would remove the temptation from the consumer. I won’t need to boycott products that are not available, and maybe sleep a little better at night :-)

    • Editor on November 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm

      What do we do? I don’t know…this all blew up because I asked people not to buy Stone and Sierra Nevada (I didn’t realise ‘boycott’ is such an emotive word). A tremendous debate about beer quality and care flared from that, which is great – these things are always good to discuss. As for what we do…all I’m still asking is that people respect the brewers and don’t buy Stone and Sierra Nevada against the express wishes of the brewers (less call beers in this class noted grey market beers, as has been pointed out there are beers here without the brewer caring).

      The good news is that I gather that Sierra Nevada is likely to sign a distribution agreement next year that will see cold-shipped beer in Australia. I’ll probably still buy Little Creatures instead of it, or even better my local 28 Pale Ale from Burleigh Brewing – which they seem to have tinkered with and I’m really enjoying.

      Apart from that, there is a whole issue around parallel importing – and even whether beer should be international – that makes for great discussion, but will never be answered. Keep the discussion going though I say because if it is carried on in the good faith that this discussion has been, it’s great. It educates and it informs and that’s all good for beer.

      I will maintain a list of noted grey beers though, just so there is a way for people to find out, and will also work with importers to keep a list of authorised importers if they want it – just so those who want to can check.

  6. steve on November 19, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Darren, the way I try and look at it is if you owned a business selling goods and/or services, would you be happy if you had no control over people on the other side of the world sampling an inferior version of the product/service you had worked so hard to create?

    Should a small brewery like Mountain Goat have a right to be annoyed as hell if their beer turned up in Manhattan and got terrible reviews, thus damaging their hard earned brand, because the beer was grey imported to the States in a sub-standard manner they didn’t approve of?

    I think the very least that comes from this whole debate is, as you point out, buyer beware. I would like to see retailers commit to better communicating which beers are grey or not at the point of sale..

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ThreepFeed, AustralianBrewsNews. AustralianBrewsNews said: Sorry to start it again…Greg Koch interview now on Brews News: http://bit.ly/9xSgAi […]

  8. Darren on November 19, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Love that he cares so much about his beer, hate that it means the only way we get to try it in Aus is to buy the grey imports. Have to admit that I have purchased Stone beers in Australia and really enjoyed them (there is one still left in my fridge). I think there comes a point where the buyer beware rule kicks in and people can figure out if they want to buy them on our own. Can’t imagine the wine industry doint this and arn’t they supposed to be the snobs?

    • Editor on November 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm

      If it wasn’t for people with passion who stick with it, we’d still be drinking vapid lager purchased from giant beer barns because we had no choice. They only sacrifice you have to make in supporting them is not having every beer that you want in your fridge. Small price to pay for encouraging others to be passionate.

      • Darren on November 19, 2010 at 9:41 pm

        Me not drinking Stone or Dogfish Head or any other “grey” imports wont stop them being passionate, or even slow their passion. These beers travel well, just like a Pedro X sherry or a spanish jamon. I dont want to support dodgey imports and did it unkonwingly first time round but the fear that travel will somehow taint the beer is over the top. These beers are art and should be shared, the cynic in me thinks this could be all about the marketing not the beer.

        • admin on November 19, 2010 at 10:13 pm

          Really? You don’t think the quality and reputation of the beers might not be marketing enough that he needs to generate a little publicity on the other side of the world? How is that possibly going to sell his beers in his main market?

          • Darren on November 20, 2010 at 9:03 am

            excellent, to both admin and editor (same person??) very novel idea to invite discussion then respond to any such discussinon that it is absurd. Kind of like those people who laugh at their own jokes. On the upside it means no one is reading this. Make sure to remember to send yourself an Xmas card this year!

          • admin on November 21, 2010 at 9:26 am


            I do genuinely welcome all comments and wasn’t suggesting your comment was absurd, but you seemed happy to suggest that Greg’s motives are cynical, but less happy to have your basis for this suggestion questioned. Not sure where the offence was taken – none was meant.

            As for the Editor/admin thing, it is indeed the same person – me. I have been aiming to keep up with the debate by responding in a timely way. I responded to your late night comment from a mobile phone which default posts as “Admin”. No conspiracy there, perhaps you need to be a little less cynical.

  9. Green Fields on November 19, 2010 at 3:35 am

    if it tasted that good after travel i cant wait to taste it fresh. greg you’re welcome here any time. message me if you want a chaperone

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