Although there is still some uncertainty about when exactly the production brewery is completely up and running, there is already quite some beer coming out of the first American Craft brewery in Europe: Stone Berlin. The launch was celebrated by co-founder Greg Koch in Amsterdam.
Stone Brewing is currently in its 20th year and has, since day one, been very successful. It has been the fastest growing American Craft brewery for the past 19 years – do the math yourself. It’s biggest claim to fame is them being the ones who really started thinking that hops in IPA was kinda fun, and where wondering what would happen if you increased the hop gift: the result is now an official beer style, American Westcoast IPA. These are the kind of beers that can leave unable to blink both eyes at the same time for ten minutes after a careless sip. ‘In your face’, is another way of saying it.
Stone has long been a coveted import brand for Europe, and Greg has long been smiling and politely saying ‘no way Jose!’ The reasoning was simple, and twofold: shipping what is essentially aromatized water halfway across the globe is not particularly carbon-footprint friendly, and given the highly aromatic essence of many of the brews, they would never arrive with the consumer in time to fully enjoy them. Both obstructions can easily be met by a rather capital-intensive solution: build you a brewery where the demand is. After over five years of searching and preparations, Stone Berlin is about to open its doors and European consumers can soon enjoy the Stone interpretation of beer.
The site hosts a pilot brewing system (10 hectoliter) and a production system (100 HL) and will, after the opening in June 2016, also offer a ‘World Bistro and Gardens’. This is modelled after the Californian original and will be a beer experience quite unlike what you have ever seen: a bar, boasting several tens of lines and hundreds of bottles; a restaurant serving a variety of healthy foods (don’t expect your burger and fries, forget about ketchup) that obviously pair excellently with beers served; and a garden ecosystem to enjoy them both in. But the biggest ‘gift’, if you wish, is all about the beer!
Stone beers in America typically have a four month shelf life: the fleeting hop aromas have simply disappeared after that time. A shelf life of four months is in Europe unknown, so they will use a longer term – but they will try and educate consumers that, for some beers, shelf lives simply cannot be a year. The quality is simply no longer there anymore after that time, and you want quality – don’t you?
To further enhance the beer quality they have decided to launch their beers only on draught and in cans. That’s right: NO bottles! For those of you that have been sleeping under a rock lately, can simply is the best packaging for beer: completely air and light-tight; lightweight (so transport is more carbon-efficient); it cools much faster; less risk of breakage; ultra-high recycling, well beating glass – consider it a mini keg and you’ll get the picture. Now get that picture of Atlas 10% half-liter can lurking street bums on a park bench out of your system!
Greg Koch didn’t say it with so many words, but the Stone approach to beer will potentially offer us Europeans a chance to take our favorite beverage more seriously – particularly when it comes to quality. We can take the test, drinking beer as fresh as we can, when kept cold as long as possible, when kept from light as long as possible. I believe we will, in a couple of years, be very grateful to Greg and his Berlin team for what they challenged us to try. But what can you expect from a man who, once day in an L.A. bar, got handed an Anchor Steam Beer and said to himself: ‘Wait a minute! Can beer actually taste this way? Wow!’