Greg Koch is Wrong

Yesterday, Ezra posted the first part of an interview he did with Stone Brewing's Greg Koch--the irrepressible, irreverent face for the rock n roll side of craft brewing. Many people have voiced criticisms of Greg because of his tendency to voice thoughts as they appear in his brain without the slightest filter--very often impolitic thoughts. This is not one of those criticisms. Rather, I take issue with his history:
"Stone IPA, is the longest full-time production West Coast-style IPA on the planet. We first came out with it in 1997 and have been producing it ever since. I don't think there are any other West Coast style IPAs that have been in production full time longer. That I'm aware of, and I could be wrong."
This is just not right. There are enough caveats in this statement that it's hard to know what Greg's claiming here, but in the inventory of my own drafty memory I can pull one out--BridgePort IPA, introduced in 1996. Perhaps this doesn't meet the narrow definition Greg wants to claim, but if he's looking to place Stone in the place of ur-IPA and craft beer influencer, it's just not persuasive. He continues:
"Arrogant Bastard, considered to be the progenitor of the American strong ale category, Stone Ruination IPA, the very first full-time production double IPA on the planet. Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, one of the most popular black IPAs and a beer that is credited for helping to popularize the segment. We were not the first by any stretch--of course Greg Noonan in Vermont in the early 1990s was creating black IPA. But we have had the opportunity to do some things that stuck and became perhaps somewhat influential in the craft brewing industry."
Again, from the memory attic, I trundle out Alan Sprints and his work with strong beers in the years before Stone, including Fred. American barley wines had been been been around years and years. The concept of "double IPA" is an American invention and narrow enough perhaps to support the claim Greg makes--but strong hoppy beers have been around forever and certainly weren't invented by Americans. And I have no doubt that if we had something more reliable than my memory, we could probably find examples of American beers that were earlier than Stone--after all, I came up with examples off the top of my mind. To his credit, Greg cites the history of dark, hoppy English ales made over a hundred years ago as evidence that black IPAs are nothing new. Surely he recognizes that there's nothing really new under the sun, right?

It is a peculiarly American instinct to want to be the first at anything. There's something alluring about staking your place in the short history of American craft brewing, and no harm in that. But to substantiate these claims requires ignoring the centuries of brewing that happened before American craft beer came on the scene, and probably excluding early examples by some other brewery--now perhaps defunct and unable to defend itself--that fails to meet the narrow definitions of style or region. Greg Koch helms one of the most successful breweries in the world and one of the most admired. That's pretty good.