Stone Brewing First to Independently Brew Its Own Beer in Europe

By EuropeFOXBusiness

The American Craft Beer Revolution hopped the Atlantic Ocean a few years ago but Stone Brewing Monday evening is marking a milestone in expanding the movement’s efforts to establish a greater European base.

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The Escondido, California-based company plans to serve up the first rounds from the inaugural batch of beer brewed at its Berlin brewhouse--the first independently built, owned, and operated American craft brewery in Europe.

“This is what we’re about, building unique places, creating jobs, creating a sense of community, and brewing great beer,” asserts Stone co-founder/CEO Greg Koch.

Stone Brewing’s beer will be poured in more than 40 locations in Germany and six other European states. Stone began brewing a month ago to ship out to farther flung pubs, but some local Berlin bars will receive what the beer maker calls “uber-fresh” brews from beer kegged and delivered today.

Stone is the ninth largest US craft brewer, known for its bold, hoppy beers and brash branding. For the Berlin launch, the brewery is featuring its Stone IPA, Stone Xocoveza for the Holidays and the New Year, and Arrogant Bastard Ale.

The 19 year-old beer company frequently collaborates with fellow brewmasters, creates specialty brews, and is serious about growing its brand—and the craft beer community. Koch says partnerships will continue: “That’s part of our nature. When our restaurant opens in March, we’ll have 40 taps, one of the largest beer selections in Germany. I expect we’ll have the largest selection of specialty and artisanal and craft German beers in the entire country.”

Stone is not alone in brewing or serving European markets. Other craft breweries are working with European counterparts to produce their brews abroad, but “Stone is the exception for brewing beers there,” according to Mark Snyder, Export Development Program Manager at the Brewers Association.

Snyder says Stone will do well in Berlin, as there’s something to the old saw that beer tastes better closer to the source. Part of the secret to getting a great beer from tank to glass, as outlined in the association’s free guide, is in refrigeration during transit and a short shelf life, which all things being equal, will preserve quality. Snyder says, “Beer is not made to be stored for a long time.”

He notes other craft brewers do well in Europe and other external markets by using refrigerated containers, warehouses, and trucks. And U.S. craft exports are climbing, jumping 37% from 2013 to 2014 to more than 110,000 barrels valued at some $29 million.

Snyder says “there is an opportunity overseas” but he doesn’t know of any other breweries independently expanding into Europe. He sees bigger growth domestically as it’s difficult for most craft beer makers to ramp up exports as many are trying to meet local demand, but adds, “I think it's great [Stone] is brewing beers over there and promoting the American craft beer business.”

In a research note, IBISWorld writes the U.S. craft beer “is expected to play an increasingly prominent role in the global market for beer {and} to redefine the country as a growing region for a vibrant range of beers.” IBISWorld forecast U.S. craft beer exports to grow at an annualized rate of 12.7% to $226.4 million by the end of 2020.

Stone is investing $25 million into the Berlin project; a brewpub and beer garden are slated to open in March at the former gasworks facility that was built in 1901 and is on the outskirts of the German capital. Currently, only the smaller of two brew systems is online, but another system ten times as large will be fired up by spring.

Koch laughed when asked whether that initial investment figure has grown: “Timelines and budgets always expand, but in this case we’ve absorbed budget expansion thanks to the exchange rate. Go strong dollar!”

While he watches the greenback, Koch is also keeping an eye on an even bigger project. On his way to Berlin, the Stone Brewing boss had an eventful layover in Richmond, Virginia where he met with the mayor and the state’s governor at the construction site of a $74 million brewery, packaging hall, and farm-to-table restaurant. The brewery and onsite tasting room should open in spring with the bistro serving in a couple of years.

Koch realizes the East Coast and European expansion are the latest signs the craft beer revolution may not be televised, but people are tapping into it.

“It’s really exciting to know how American beer has completely changed its reputation and to be a part of that. Just a couple of decades ago, American beer was the laughing stock everyone made fun of,” he says, adding, “We’re creating new styles of beer the world is lauding and emulating. It tells us we’ve made great strides, not just Stone, but the entire craft beer community. We changed a nation’s culture when it comes to beer.”

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