Greg Koch Responds

I called out Greg Koch, founder and impresario at Stone Brewing, last week over historical comments he made in a video over at the New School. I got the long response to that you see below. I'll leave the comments open, but watch them pretty closely. If you want to take a personal shot at Greg, me, or anyone, have the courage to sign your name--otherwise I'll delete it. Greg has taken the opportunity to open this up to conversation--and I appreciate the time and effort--so let's keep things on the high road, shall we? I'll give this post over to Greg and respond in comments.

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Jeff (and everyone), thanks for the conversation. I find conversations about my favorite subject (craft beer of course!) to always be invigorating and intriguing. And, on some, but-usually-quite-rare occasions, to be controversial. In this case, it seems to be the latter, but should it? Did my comments really qualify? Well, let’s take a look…


First off, you state “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.” It’s certainly true that I’ve gotten some critiques over the years. Such is the reality of putting yourself out there on a regular basis. However, I actually try NOT to say controversial things most of the time. Some might be surprised, but one of my personal challenges is wearing my heart on my sleeve a bit. I think I allow myself to get too bummed out by critiques and mischaracterizations to be honest. Even small ones sometimes kick me to the curb. I lay there a bit, stew occasionally, but then get up, brush off, and remind myself its just part of the equation. My other choice is to just stay home, or perhaps to pretend that I’m less passionate about this biz than I am and keep outta the conversation. Faced with those choices, I guess I’d best just continue to learn how to take the hits, ‘cause I’m just not the type to stay home or be a shrinking violet.

But really? “Without the slightest filter” and “very often impolitic”? I think my occasionally “out there” persona coupled with naming a beer “Arrogant Bastard Ale” back in 1997 may be skewing the perception of me a bit, but alas, so be it. I do wonder what examples you might cite however. Of the easily over 300 vids I’ve shot and uploaded to the interwebs over the years (this being one of the first), or others have, probably less than a dozen involve a megaphone or crowd surfing, and probably only a small handful more have me saying anything that 9 out of 10 folks would be considered controversial.

Regarding my statement in Ezra’s interview about Arrogant Bastard Ale:

Forgive me for being an old-schooler here, but I suppose I could have referenced the current GABF category and what they now call an “Imperial Red Ale” rather than what used to be called an “American Strong Ale.” The latter, as a style description, has become a bit wide in its perception, and thus has been narrowed-down with more specific style categories. I am well aware of Hair of the Dog and their terrific beers. Hair of the Dog Rose was the first beer I ever consumed at our “not yet ours” warehouse/future brewery location on Mata Way in San Marcos, CA when I had the keys to it for the weekend in late 1995 (so that Steve and I could draw chalk circles on the warehouse floor to help us determine how we might lay out our brewery if we were to sign a lease on the space). Years late--around the year 2000--we started distributing other brands of beer in SoCal in addition to our own, and I was able to convince Alan Sprints to allow us to represent his terrific beers in our region (sadly, due to perhaps being too far ahead of the curve, either in our learning curve as a young wholesaler or in the knowledge curve of SoCal craft beer consumers, we were not able to make a success with HotD…sure wish we had the privilege to represent those great beers in our portfolio today). All that being said, suggesting that a 7.2%abv super hoppy red ale with elevated IBUs (Arrogant Bastard Ale) is in the same category as a 10% deep golden ale with more modest IBUs (Fred) is a stretch I wouldn’t make.

When it came out, Arrogant Bastard Ale was the only uber-hoppy (for the time in 1997 that is, not so much considered “uber-hoppy” by today’s standards) strong red ale of its kind that I am aware of (we didn’t have BeerAdvocate or RateBeer available to us back then to help us know the details of nearly every beer that was being brewed in the US). Is it possible that there was another big, hoppy, strong red ale being brewed somewhere by someone? Absolutely. Was Arrogant Bastard Ale the first one that really hit the radar? Yes, I believe so. When it came out, it was a very unique beer. There was very little at that time that occupied the space between the pale ales and red ales and barley wines.

On my statements about Stone IPA

In the interview I said…
“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 that there are any other west coast [style] IPAs that have been in production, full time, longer…that I’m aware of. But I could be wrong and I always accept that if there’s some piece of information out there that I didn’t know.”

A few moments later I said: “I was always influenced on the way. I can’t ever say that we’ve done things that weren’t influenced by others.”

First, of course, it would depend on one’s definition as to a “west coast-style IPA.” Does Bridgeport IPA (a longtime favorite of mine, by the way!) at 5.5%abv & 50 IBUs fall into that category? The company must not have thought so, as according to their website, in 1997 they chose to enter it into the GABF in the “Classic English Style Pale Ale” category winning a Gold medal, and in 1999 they entered it into the GABF’s American Style Pale Ale category and won a silver. Presumably they likely entered it in other years as well, but under what categories I do not know. Bridgeport’s own website describes the beer as “…citrusy aroma and full hop flavor, while downplaying the bitterness.”

I don’t think most folks feel that a “west coast-style IPA” downplays bitterness.

Currently, the GABF does not have a “west coast-style IPA” category, so we’ll need to look at the “American Style IPA” for our reference in the matter. ABV range is 6.3%-7.5% and IBUs range from 50-70, which, interestingly, puts Stone IPA out of the range of those style guidelines since it’s around 77 IBUs (and one of the characteristics IMO, that puts it into the “west coast” style range).

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