The official opening is still planned for mid-September, and tension is rising around the final impact of Stone Brewing Berlin. It is the first American Craft brewery who’s made the jump across the pond and build and actual brewing facility on European soil. It is bound to have a massive impact on beer as we know it today.
First of all, Stone is known for its hoppy to very hoppy beer. They claim to be the inventor of West Coast India Pale Ale, a version of IPA that may sometimes result in a tongue being numb and the palate wrecked, as if ISIS chose it as the location for its annual Team Building Convention. I mean: these beers can be so bitter and hoppy blinking with both eyes at the same time is impossible for the best part of an hour. This is really more aroma than flavor, and these aromas are vulnerable to time, temperature and light struck – more than most other beers, who are less aroma-centric. Hence, exporting its beer from California to Europe has long been a no-go for Stone, with some remarkable as well as inexplicable exceptions for Brewdog and Sweden (perhaps they thought Scots and Swedes compensate for distance and time – a curious thought). This is why the Berlin brewing facility was built: it is all about quality of product that reaches the consumer.
They take their quality quest even further, having decided they will only launch draft product and the rest will be cans. Yes, baby, read that again: there will be NO Stone Berlin beer in bottles! Given the head-on approach Stone usually takes when opening new markets, it will mean a full-throttle push on getting these cans listed in both bars as stores, including retail. This comes at an interesting moment, just when European consumers are starting to accept cans as a beer container. For too long consumers associated cans with lower quality, higher ABV beers – mainly consumed by bums on park benches. Also, the misapprehension can gives a metal flavor to beer has led many people astray. Stone will not take ‘no’ for an answer, so consider this the arrival of reinforcement troops for those European breweries who have already embarked on a can, or even can-only, packaging line. It will help other breweries make the final step, and will – in the end – improve the quality of beer consumed in comparison to bottled beer, far more vulnerable for light and oxidation. And I haven’t mentioned all the recycling and carbon footprint advantages yet.
Whether the Stone World Bistro and Gardens (the 1.200+ seats restaurant and tasting room) will be such a success as it is in California remains to be seen, and here’s why. The location is 16 kilometer outside Berlin’s city centre and Europeans tend to be less car-centric than Americans are. Besides, drink and drive laws are (rightfully so) pretty strict, so will many people take the effort to go there more than once? I seriously doubt, also because it will be all non-smoking and the although menu will echo the sentiments of modern-day Berlin (much vegan, vegetarian health food) the absence of burgers and ketchup will be a let-down for many visitors. Yup, it’s true: no ketchup in the restaurant, as per definition, Stone views that as a flavor killer. It is not for me to doubt or debate that. It is a strong choice, and I hope they can stick to it. But whether or not it will deliver enough value for hordes of regular visitors will remain to be seen, and I consider it a huge challenge.
Biggest question remains: what will the locally brewed Stone IPA be like? This flagship beer, the world’s first West Coast IPA, has undergone some tweaking recently in the States, where the ‘old’ recipe has seen a new hop bill, including Azaaca, Calypso, New Zealand Moteuka, Australian Ella and Australian Vic Secret,” hops known for their tropical notes. This new version completely replaces the original one and is said to have “elements of mango, lemon, peach – so it’s a little more complex with the fruity flavors coming from the hops.” It is called simply Stone IPA 1.1
So why? If it is not broken, why fix it, one would be tempted to say – but thank God, Stone’s co-founder and CEO Greg Koch explains it. “We’ve always had this attitude at Stone, that you can never do anything so good that you can’t do it better. And we felt it was an improvement,” he said. “It’s going to be one of those things where, like, it’s like you cut your bangs a little bit different, and somebody says, ‘wow you look great, did you lose weight? Is it new glasses?” I cannot wait to try it, but as said, it remains unclear if Berlin will brew 1.0 or 1.1 Stone IPA. We’ll keep you posted!