Indie-Craft Interview #13: Stone’s Greg Koch
When Stone finally arrived in Missouri, so did Greg Koch, the brewing company’s co-founder and CEO comes correct, preaching the craft beer gospel through a bull horn. His message is the only thing louder than said bullhorn. It’s a message that speaks to the coalition. It’s a message that promotes artisanal products, particularly his own Stone beers.
Unfortunately, Greg did not make it to Columbia during that release. He did however take the time to respond to my blog post on the events of that week. He even responded to each and every footnote. Regardless of your stance on Stone, craft beer hype, or the circus that surrounds Greg, it was pretty cool that he took the time to leave comments on my 100-views-a-day blog. It was even cooler that he took the time to answer my questions for this series.
1. Describe your craft(s).
Our craft at Stone Brewing Company as you might guess is craft beer. We started in 1996 and since then helped introduce the world big character, hoppy, aggressive beers that don’t compromise. Also, our craft is in the Stone Brewing World Bistro Gardens where we have become the largest restaurant purchaser of local, small, farm, organic produce in Sand Diego County – a stat that I am particularly proud of. In addition we have our own small organic farm which only produces a small percentage of our produce needs is about eight miles north of our brewery.
2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
It’s substantial. When you’re independent- that is not owned by a large conglomerate or industrial producer or also not publicly traded or held – you can make decisions that aren’t based upon a bottom-line, financial black and white spreadsheet. Now I’m one that argues that actually making “impractical” or “nonstandard” decisions is a very good business model, but it’s extraordinarily hard to do that hundred any circumstances, to trust your gut, to go direction really feel you should go. But if you’re in part of a larger conglomerate or a publicly held company, then the chances that you’re going to do that are almost nil. Being indie allows the creativity to come out and now to go directions that may seem on the surface to many impractical or uncertain but ultimately can allow you to create things that are special and unique and hopefully, ultimately successful.
3. How does your craft contribute to society?
At Stone, our biggest contribution is to do our part to show the world that there are better, more interesting things out there. There are things that have a better connection to the community, a better connection to our local region [through] our eclectic menu, our aggressive and unique beers…that people don’t have only the same old same old to choose from. They also have the ability to choose and learn about things that are of a special and unique quality. We’ve also tried to do our best to display a model that is highly connected to our community as far as community involvement. We participate in more than 500 charitable events each year. We’ve donated more than $2 million in cash and beer to charities for charitable fundraising events over our lives at Stone Brewing Company. We’re an active part of the community. Stone Brewing World Bistro Gardens is a community gathering place. It’s a place where people go to congregate, discuss issues like the old-time pubs and meeting places. Our place – which has no TV’s, a complete ban on high-fructose corn syrup, no commodity beers, no commodity pre-processed foods – is a place that sort of breaks free from the convention that’s all around us, allowing people to more creative in their own direction and their own lives.
4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
I’m actually stoked to say that there’s quite a number. Maybe coffee would be at the top of the list but coffee would have to share the top of the list with artisanal cheese producers. Pretty much all artisinal and artistic food and drink: local bakeries, kombucha producers – creating great, flavorful, healthy drinks – , and restaurants and pubs… You know, like the gastropub movement to use a broad term. These businesses that are working hard to make sure they’re connected to the community and our environment by carefully curating what they serve, understanding the policies, practices, philosophies behind the items that they bring in the backdoor, prepare, and serve to their guests. All places that approach their business from that perspective I have a high level of respect for and appreciation for because it makes my life as a consumer richer and more rewarding. I get to experience the best that life has to offer. In today’s world, there’s kind of no reason no to enjoy all of these things. Sometimes in certain areas you have to seek it out a little bit more, but overall the level of availability of specialty and artisanal products has continued to grow. I appreciate that.
5. What is your dream of success?
Success to me means the world has changed or is dramatically changing for the better; yhat we are continuing to understand the importance of organic and local produce; that we [consume] actual, real food as opposed to pre-prepared foods or processed foods and all that. They’re better for our society. They’re better for us individually. They’re better for the environment. They’re better for the animals in the case of eating meat. We can live happier, healthier lives. This is a beautiful thing. It’s what I believe in. While it may not look like on the surface from our work that we’re working towards that, but I really feel that we are part of this movement to steer away from commodity, conglomerate, and lowest-common-denominator stuff towards artisinal quality, characterful, and well-crafted items.
Cheers and thanks for including me in the article! I appreciate it.
Greg has a new book out that you should read. Some of it is redundant for those of you who know the story of beer well or even the story of Stone. However, there are some great beer and food recipes included along with a good model for starting a small business the way you want to do it. In the meantime, drink a Stone in honor of this interview.
Click here for the previous twelve indie-craft interviews. If you know of someone I should interview for the series, make a suggestion below.