This week on Beer is a Conversation, we have a long chat with Greg Koch, co-founder of San Diego’s Stone Brewing.
Brews News first chatted with Greg back in 2010 when he was actively campaigning against the grey importing of Stone beers into Australia. At that time many drinkers took the view, “what’s the harm? Sure the beer isn’t always great – but it will still be good and at least I get to taste the great beers of the craft brewing world.”
But Greg slapped that argument down with the incredibly passionate defence he made for drinking his beers fresh and the way he intended,
Much of today’s discussion refers back to that conversation and so we would really recommend that even if you have listened before, you go back and revisit that chat.
Of course, since that conversation Stone is now imported to Australia. When we last spoke, Greg identified Australia’s internal transport and logistics structure as being a major barrier to getting his beer into our hands fresh. He also mentioned the price, saying that the cost of cold shipping would make his beers too expensive to sell here. Today, they are selling at close to $30 a six-pack.
Today’s conversation was sparked because Stone still says one of the greatest tragedies for the brewery is when a beer crafted to showcase hops is left languishing on a shelf for too long. Stone argues “time erodes all of its botanical qualities”. Yet Stone has made the decision to send it’s beer half-way around the world and, despite the care they take in doing that, a recent survey of Brisbane retailers found it difficult to buy Stone that is younger than the 120 days that the brewery says is the outside limit for quality. Often it is much, much older. This seems to be contrary to Greg’s earlier argument for drinking his beer fresh.
This conversation isn’t about Stone’s decision to extend the code dates on the beers sent to Australia, which has been written about on blogs such as Beer is Your Friend and Good Beer Hunting. It was more to learn in what ways does Greg think the Australian market has changed since 2011, especially in the face of what we saw as pretty strong evidence that his beers are languishing on shelves, just as Greg predicted they would back then.
We talk about that and the conversation meanders onto a few other topics as well, including the question of whether growing a craft brewery automatically involves making compromises as you scale and the environmental sustainability of sending beer refrigerated half way around the world.
Enjoy the conversation.
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