Is ‘Graft Beer’ Limiting YOUR Choices?

Jacob McKean

If you’ve watched our CEO & Co-Founder Greg Koch’s speech at the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference, you know that business ethics are hugely important to Stone. While we see business ethics as an essential part of everything we do—from environmental sustainability to charitable giving to collaboration—the business of selling beer can present especially tricky issues for craft breweries.

Fortunately, this article in Crain’s Chicago Business shined a bright, revealing spotlight on the kind of backroom shenanigans that can make it harder for beer lovers to get the craft beers of their choice.

Crain’s also produced an informative video that gets into detail about some of the illegal practices that keep craft beer out of the marketplace:

Unfortunately, these types of activities are by no means limited to Chicago. Shady deals between breweries, distributors, and bars/restaurants happen–to some degree–almost everywhere.

So why does Stone care so much about these issues? Why do we make a point of saying we never, ever participate in any illegal and unethical sales practices? To toot our own self-righteous horn? No, we’re generally content to do that about our tasty beer.

We care about this because the survival and sustainability of craft beer in America depends on a level playing field. Craft beer is growing by double digits while other categories are flat or sinking. The numbers don’t lie: American’s increasingly want better beer made by people who care passionately about quality.

But if beer drinkers don’t have the option to buy craft beer, this revolution will never see its full potential. For craft beer to remain exciting, dynamic, and relevant, small brewers need to be able to get their beer into the hands of craft beer lovers. But a market that is ruled by pay-to-play tactics limits the free choice of beer drinkers and squeezes out the little guys.

Hell, an unlevel playing field nearly sunk Stone in the early years. Bars would demand free beer, free merchandise, or outright cash payments for space on their tap towers, yet we NEVER played along. Fortuitously, Greg and Steve made the difficult (and inordinately expensive) decision to self-distribute. After years of struggle, Stone Distributing now delivers beer from over 30 craft breweries to bars, stores, and restaurants in Southern California, and does so with integrity.

But not everyone has the means or ability to do that. And we still have to rely on our distributor partners in the dozens and dozens of other markets Stone beer is available.

So what can you do about it? Support the breweries, wholesalers, and retailers who take the high road. That can be a tricky thing to find out, but just asking a lot of questions can help.  Bars listen to their customers, so if you want craft beer on tap, speak up.

It’s important to note that Stone is not alone in practicing good business ethics. Far be it, we’re happy to say. Most brewers and wholesalers play ethically and legally. Our point here is far less about us taking the high road, and more about calling out those who engage in illegal and unethical business practices that limit your choices!

So that’s our rant for today. Stay strong, craft beer fans, and remember to always take the high road.

Our Gardens Receive Shiny Stamp of Professional Approval

Jacob McKean

Those of you who have visited the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens know that we put a lot of effort into our outdoor spaces. But some of you may not be aware that the Gardens started its life as a barren storm water detention basin in a vacant industrial park.


With help from Greg on the skip loader and a gaggle of volunteers, the staff and crew moved rocks, mixed mortar, and prepared the soil, transforming our backyard—with guidance from Schmidt Design Group and landscaping contractor Landscape+—into the lush, wildlife-filled park it is today.

And now we’ve received some major recognition for that hard work from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), who called it, “Our century’s version of Ghiradelli Square, with a basis in sustainability.”

As you can imagine, a professional organization for landscape architects has pretty high standards, so we’re thoroughly stoked to win the highest honor—the Presidents Award—from the San Diego chapter of the ASLA.

So the next time you’re quaffing a beer in the Gardens, perhaps your verdant surroundings will look even greener…and the flowers smell a little sweeter…knowing that they now carry the shiny stamp of professional recognition.

Greg had his vBlog cam handy at the awards ceremony:

And here’s a snazzy guided tour of the Gardens:

Stone Invades Connecticut

As you know, over 59 million Americans tragically suffer from the devastating condition of Stone Deprivation, but the fortunate residents of Connecticut won’t have to suffer much longer. We’ll begin distributing in the Constitution State on September 22, making Connecticut the 32nd state to receive Stone beer.

To celebrate our benevolent invasion, we’ll be throwing a series of kick-off events. The first will take place on Tuesday, September 22nd at 6pm at Prime 16, and the second will be later that night at Delaney’s at 9pm. Check out our Stone CT Events google calendar for a complete list of kick-off bashes. Keep an eye out for our hard-working Connecticut Sales Representative, Dennis Flynn, and be sure to thank him for helping spread the Arrogance to your once-thirsty state.

Our Connecticut Sales Representative, Dennis Flynn, means business

Our Connecticut Sales Representative, Dennis Flynn, means business

If you’re dying to know what Stone beers will be available and where, consult the CT section of our distribution page, and don’t be afraid to make a few phone calls. And for those of you who still suffer from Stone Deprivation, know that we haven’t forsaken you. It’s only a matter of time until we stage a take-over of your state, so be patient. In the meantime, continue to drink local and champion the cause of craft beer!

-Matt Steele

Greg’s CBC Keynote Address Posted on

Thanks to passionate craft beer lovers everywhere, I Am A Craft Brewer took on more of a life online than it did at the CBC. To borrow a trite social media buzzword, it went “viral.” Within four hours of being posted on Vimeo it was viewed 1,500 times, and it sailed past 20,000 views just five days later. The video is currently hovering around a respectable 33,700 views.

While the video stands alone as a testament to the camaraderie and integrity of the craft brewing industry, it was actually shown as the introduction to Greg’s keynote speech at the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference in Boston, titled “Be Remarkable: Collaboration Ethics Camaraderie Passion.” Famed beer writer Harry Schuhmacher said “It was the best speech I have ever seen,” and while it isn’t perfect, Greg’s inspirational keynote successfully illuminates the many strengths of the craft brewing industry and demonstrates that “if we don’t screw it up,” craft brewing stands poised to thrive for many years to come.

Check out Greg's Keynote Address at

Click above to check out Greg's Keynote Address at

You can see Greg’s keynote speech, complete with an impromptu musical performance with craft beer compatriots (perhaps they should stick to beer), at Pour yourself a tall glass and settle into a comfy chair because Greg had a lot on his mind (the speech clocks in at 46 minutes). You can also find two different versions of I Am A Craft Brewer on, as well as a bevy of quotes from bloggers and media types raving about the video and Greg’s keynote, and a short guide on how to share the video with as many people as possible to keep the movement rolling. Remember, we’re all craft beer crusaders, and it’s our job to spread the word about the spirit and integrity of the industry. Onward craft beer enthusiasts!

-Matt Steele

Greg Gets by With a Little Help From His Friends

If you’ve been following us on Twitter, you know that the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference kicked off yesterday after a rousing keynote speech delivered by our very own Greg Koch. If you know Greg, you know he’s not one to do things the ordinary way. He wanted to deliver the most rockin’ oration in the conference’s history, and by all accounts (including his Tweet in the middle of the speech!), he succeeded.

However, Greg didn’t do it alone. Some compatriots in the craft brewing industry, along with our friends at Red Tail Media, helped him put together a video tribute to the craft beer industry to kick off the speech. Various collaboration beers were poured for attendees as the video was playing, and when it finished, Greg led all 1,700 fired-up attendees in a heartfelt toast to the communal spirit of the industry. So share this video with a friend, crack open a beer, and raise a glass to the enduring camaraderie of craft beer!

I Am A Craft Brewer from I Am A Craft Brewer on Vimeo.


“I Am A Craft Brewer” is a collaborative video representing the camaraderie, character and integrity of the American Craft Brewing movement. Created by Greg Koch, CEO of the Stone Brewing Co. and Chris & Jared of Redtail Media…and more than 35 amazing craft brewers from all over the country. The video was shown to a packed audience of 1700 craft brewers and industry members at the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference as an introduction to Greg’s Keynote Speech entitled “Be Remarkable: Collaboration Ethics Camaraderie Passion.” As is tradition for the CBC Keynote, a toast to the audience was offered. This time, the beers offered for the toast were all collaboratively brewed craft beers including Isabella Proximus, Collaboration Not Litigation, AleSmith/Mikkeller/Stone Belgian Style Triple, Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne-Ø/Stone Special Holiday Ale, and 2009 Symposium Ale “Audacity of Hops.”

A re-cut version will be posted as soon as possible, and a program is in development to include even more of America’s amazing craft brewers. Please stay tuned!

The video of Greg’s entire keynote speech will be available some time within the next two weeks. We’ll post it in all of its plaid jacket glory as soon as it’s available. As a teaser, it features musical appearances by some familiar faces around Stone and the craft beer industry (when I said rockin’ I meant it).

-Matt Steele

Stone the top rated beer brewed in the UK. Wait, what?

Matt Steele
Bryon Wischstadt, our beloved IT Director, recently stumbled upon a surprising tidbit on He was perusing some of the ranking lists when he came across the Best Beers of Britain page. On the top of the list in the number one slot was “Stone California Double IPA.” Understandably, his first reaction was—“Wait, what!?”

Best Beers of Britain

Best Beers of Britain

Ok, so this link is a little old, but it missed our radar when it was fresh. You can find the latest link here (sans Stone California Double IPA, since it’s now a retired beer). But for a fleeting moment, we were in the number one spot for beers brewed in Britain in 2008. How the hell did that happen? Let me explain.

Steve and Mitch enjoying a beer at Shepherd Neame. Read Steve's notes from last year's e-mail nesletter.

Steve and Mitch enjoying a beer at a tour room bar at Fullers. The man behind the bar is Fullers brewer Derek Prentice. Click on the photo above to read Steve's notes from the 2008 Stone email newsletter.

Last March, Great Britain’s JD Wetherspoons pub group held the world’s largest Real Ale Festival and decided it just wouldn’t be complete without a style known to hop heads as the “West Coast IPA.” So who did they turn to to brew this hoppy masterpiece?  You guessed it—our very own Brewmaster Steve Wagner and Head Brewer Mitch Steele. Stringent international importing regulations and a mountain of paperwork, however, made getting the beer across the Pond rather tricky. Luckily, some very wise minds decided, “if we can’t import the beer, why not import the brewers?” So Steve and Mitch scored the trip of a lifetime and brewed a special batch of Stone California Double IPA at the oldest operating brewery in the UK, Shepherd Neame in Kent.

Mitch with talented former Stone brewer, Toshi Ishii. After leaving Stone, Toshi founded Yo-Ho Brewing Co. in Tokyo. He contributed Japan's first Real Ale to the festival, Yo-Ho Tokyo Black Real Ale.

Mitch with talented former Stone brewer, Toshi Ishii. After leaving Stone, Toshi founded Yo-Ho Brewing Co. in Tokyo. He contributed Japan's first marketed Real Ale to the festival, Yo-Ho Tokyo Black Real Ale.

The beer was an instant hit. In fact, they sold out of the beer so fast that they forgot to save us a keg to serve at our Stone Company Picnic. We were flattered by its popularity, but we would have liked to taste it ourselves! Nevertheless, we’re proud to have once laid claim to the number one beer brewed in the UK, even if it was only for a brief time (and the result of an unlikely technicality).

-Matt Steele

North County Times Writes About Stone

Greg Koch
It’s very cool that our local newspaper, the North County Times, is running a story today about Beer Advocate Magazine’s pronouncement that Stone ranked at the #1 spot on their list “According to the numbers, the most popular and highest-rated brewers — ever.”

I wrote a blog post about it a couple weeks ago.  Nice that the North County Times decided to cover it as well.

I don’t think that the world around us will change all that much, but every little bit helps.  Most local folks in North County and the rest of San Diego will continue about their lives unaware of the incredible — and world-famous — craft beer scene in their own backyard.  However, the ranks of the in-the-know does continue to grow.  Usually incrementally on a day by day basis, but sometimes more on a leaps and bounds basis with the help of the extra push of our local media.  We are quite thankful of that.  The number of amazing, artisanal, fresh, local choices in nearly all things food and drink in San Diego County grows constantly.  It is a real renaissance.  Not just here, but all over the US.  The degrees vary of course.  In some areas it’s more rooted and advanced, and in some it’s less.  And one of the areas that San Diego County absolutely excels at is craft beer.  No, not just at Stone.  Not by any stretch.  We are just part of the wonderful craft brewing community here.



We Rock. Hard. (And it's not even me saying it this time.)

BeerAdvocate Cover

BeerAdvocate Cover

I got the new BeerAdvocate Magazine last week.  Cool.  I always enjoy reading it.  New happenings, interesting perspectives, current goings on…it’s a good read.  Love the visual tone too, and this time I thought it was especially cool that the mag featured my friend Kjetil Jikiun on the cover.  Also cool that the shot just so happened to have been taken at our brewery.  Also cool that Kjetil just so happened to be at our brewery to brew the stunning Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-Ø / Stone Special Holiday Ale with Ron Jefferies from Jolly Pumpkin and our own Mitch Steele.

I always scan / thumb through the magazine first, looking to see what pops out, then sit down and read it later when I’ve got more time.  This time the scanning began as usual, but then a little more than half way I stopped on one of the features and began muttering expletives.  Loudly.

Odd when you consider the fact that I was actually quite happy.  Very happy.  I suppose you’d have to call them “Muttered Expletives of Joy.”

Yeah, whatever. Bottom line is that I was stoked.

In the current edition, BeerAdvocate magazine announced their annual “Highest Rated” list.  Usually, it’s a look at the “current” ratings, and we’ve always placed well (read: top one or two or three).

This time, they ranked the breweries “According to the numbers, the most popular and highest-rated brewers — ever.”

Over the last few days, I’ve been showing people my copy of the magazine, reading the same quote above from the copy, and then handing them the magazine while saying “I can’t quite make out the words on the list itself…can you tell me what it says?”  Heh.  I think it might be a while before that gets old.  To me.

Well, I can’t do that here on this blog post…or maybe I can.  Perhaps I could ever-so-humbly ask you to please read to me what the brewery was that made the top of that list …I can’t quite make it out….