Greg Koch, co-founder and executive chairman, Stone Brewing, Escondido, California, USA at Enter Night event Metallica x Stone Brewing Pre-Party, BrewDog Brussels, 20 Putterie, 1000 Brussels, Belgium. © Ahmed ElAmin.
Podcast: Interview with Greg Koch on the changes in Belgian brewing.
At first Greg Koch looks a bit put off when I refer to him as ‘Beer Jesus’ in Brussels, a reference to the moniker he was given by the German press at the start of his now failed attempt to conquer Germany — and the European market. But the moment flashes by and he instantly returns to his jovial self. He is in Brussels at BrewDog on 15 June to promote Enter Night, a dry-hopped pilsner made in collaboration with Metallica, at Stone Brewing in Berlin.
He is in essence on tour with Metallica and the beer, and also to solidify his collaboration with BrewDog, which bought out Stone’s tap room and brewery in Berlin. But Koch seems to have recovered well from what for a craft brewer is a relatively magnificent misreading of the European market. Koch, after all, is celebrating 23 years in the brewing business, one in which Stone is rightly considered the pioneer of American craft beer and which helped ferment the global artisanal beer revolution. He has tilted at windmills and won.
It is apparent during the interview at BrewDog (see podcast above) that Koch has not lost his passion for promoting craft during the two decades of offering drinkers revolutionary beers and evolving consumer tastes. Now their are thousands of craft brewers across the US and Europe, with more launching every month.
Asked about the changes in Belgium, he recalls giving a keynote speech in 2010 to the Belgian Brewers association, who had bestowed on him a Knighthood of the Brewers’ Paddle, given to “individuals who have rendered loyal services to the brewing profession”. Back then he asked those attending what they thought about Americans doing Belgian style beers, and found the responses “mostly negative”. He also asked what they thought of Belgians doing American style IPA US style beers, and got the response that to do so “would be promoting American beer”. Today he finds the choices have expanded on the Belgian market and such a response has been over ridden by the market.
“I think at its very best, artisanal brewing, call it craft brewing if you want to, is a celebration of styles and diversity of artistry, of going the way that you want as a brewer not just the way of tradition, sort of honoring tradition without being bound by it. And that is what I see a lot of in Belgium today. I see a lot of honoring tradition and not everybody is bound by it,” he says.
“I remember seeing Metallica on the cover of a magazine just after the Black Album was released,” Koch says in a press release about the beer . “On the cover was a quote that resonated with me to this day: ‘Metallica didn’t go to number one, number one came to them.’ I loved what that meant. Do it your way and never compromise your art. If you’re great at what you do people will come. I view that simple quote as one of the founding philosophical elements of Stone Brewing.”
Enter Night is brewed in the tradition Northern German Pilsner. It’s a dry-hopped pilsner with a bitter finish and a smooth texture.
The Story of Enter Night Pilsner, Stone Brewing,Metallica x Arrogant Consortia: Enter Night Pilsner.
Stone was founded by Koch and Steve Wagner in 1996 in San Diego, and now claims to be the 9th largest craft brewer in the USA. It claims a “commitment to sustainability, business ethics, philanthropy and the art of brewing … and pledging never, ever, to sell out to the man”.
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