Batt­le of the brews in the land of beers, by Ed Me­za.

Handelsblatt Global Edition Magazine - - Table Of Contents - BY ED ME­ZA

In the land of beers, small spe­cial­ty bre­we­ries are gai­ning ground against the glo­bal beer con­glo­me­ra­tes. But why would a Ca­li­for­nia craft beer com­pa­ny start br­ewing in Ber­lin?

Ne­ver mind co­al to New­cast­le, but who in his right mind would go to Ger­ma­ny to set up a bre­we­ry? Ca­li­for­nia-ba­sed Sto­ne Br­ewing, Ame­ri­ca’s ninth-lar­gest ma­ker of pre­mi­um craft beers, has ta­ken the plun­ge and is do­ing just that. Ho­ping to ge­ne­ra­te so­me froth in the land of beers, Sto­ne Br­ewing cho­se Ber­lin to build what may be the first Ame­ri­can craft-beer bre­we­ry in Eu­ro­pe.

The idea isn’t as stran­ge as it seems. Stee­ped in their own an­ci­ent beer-ma­king cul­tu­re, Ger­man beer-drin­kers ha­ve re­mai­ned loy­al to their own bre­we­ries and re­gio­nal sty­les of beer, from bit­ter pils­ners in the north to fro­thy wheat beers in the south. Not on­ly ha­ve for­eign brews ma­de few in­roads, but that al­so me­ans the glo­bal trend towards craft beers – exo­tic spe­cial­ty brews ma­de by small bre­we­ries for ur­ban hips­ters and ot­her ni­che mar­kets – has be­en slo­wer than el­sew­he­re to ta­ke off. In part, that’s be­cau­se ma­ny of Ger­ma­ny’s 1,350 bre­we­ries are them­sel­ves small, lo­cal or re­gio­nal ope­ra­ti­ons craf­ting tra­di­tio­nal beers ac­cor­ding to Ger­ma­ny’s ve­ne­ra­ted Rein­heits­ge­bot – the 500-ye­ar-old “pu­ri­ty law,” still in ef­fect to­day, that li­mits a beer’s in­gre­dients to hops, wa­ter, yeast and bar­ley or wheat.

But the Ger­m­ans’ loyal­ty to their own le­gen­da­ry brews al­so me­ans that Eu­ro­pe’s lar­gest beer mar­ket seems ri­pe for a litt­le mo­re va­rie­ty. At least that’s what Sto­ne Br­ewing foun­der and CEO Greg Koch thinks. He’s drawn ga­sps by cal­ling Ger­ma­ny’s main­stream beers as bo­ring as ele­va­tor mu­sic, and for the Rein­heits­ge­bot to be ab­olis­hed, clai­ming it un­ne­ces­sa­ri­ly re­stricts bre­wers’ crea­ti­vi­ty and stif­les the mar­ket.

Koch’s $23 mil­li­on in­vest­ment to turn a his­to­ric Ber­lin gas­works in­to a mo­dern bre­we­ry and beer gar­den co­mes at the end of a se­arch that in­clu­ded 130 sites in ni­ne Eu­ro­pean coun­tries. From its Ber­lin fa­ci­li­ty, which will pro­du­ce up to 10 mil­li­on li­ters of beer per ye­ar when it’s com­ple­ted, Sto­ne Br­ewing has be­en ship­ping beers to Ger­ma­ny and Eu­ro­pe even as con­struc­tion con­ti­nues. Sto­ne’s sty­les are fa­mi­li­ar to craft-beer con­nois­seurs but

I think of au­then­tic Ger­man beers as clas­si­cal mu­sic — tra­di­tio­nal, re­fi­ned, de­ve­l­o­ped over long pe­ri­ods of ti­me. With our craft beer, we’re mo­re rock ’n’ roll.

Greg Koch, CEO of Ca­li­for­nia-ba­sed Sto­ne Br­ewing

com­ple­te­ly for­eign to most Ger­man beer drin­kers. They in­clu­de the flip­pant­ly na­med Ar­ro­gant Bas­tard Ale — a ve­ry dark, hig­hal­co­hol beer — as well as Sto­ne’s ver­si­on of IPA, which stands for In­dia pa­le ale, a tren­dy craft­beer style with ex­tra hops and a com­plex fla­vor.

Sto­ne Br­ewing knows how to ma­ke a splash. Foun­ded in 1996 by Koch and beer bud­dy Ste­ve Wagner as one of Ame­ri­ca’s hund­reds of emer­ging mi­crob­re­we­ries, the com­pa­ny has ma­de Inc. ma­ga­zi­ne’s list of the fas­test-gro­wing pri­va­te com­pa­nies in the U.S. and be­en show­e­r­ed with awards for its beers. Now the bre­wer is go­ing in­ter­na­tio­nal, be­gin­ning in a coun­try li­te­r­al­ly swim­ming in beer, pro­du­cing 10 bil­li­on li­ters of the stuff each ye­ar. But the re­wards of cracking the Ger­man mar­ket could be hu­ge: Ger­m­ans drink mo­re beer per per­son — 107 li­ters a ye­ar — than any na­tio­na­li­ty ex­cept the Czechs. Ger­ma­ny over­all con­su­mes al­most twice as much beer as Bri­tain.

So how does Koch ex­plain to Ger­m­ans why they should gi­ve up their own beers? He li­kens br­ewing beer to ma­king mu­sic:“I think of au­then­tic Ger­man beers as the clas­si­cal mu­sic of beer,” he says, “tra­di­tio­nal, sto­ried, de­ve­l­o­ped over long pe­ri­ods of ti­me, ar­tis­tic, nu­an­ced and re­fi­ned. With our craft beer, we’re mo­re rock ’n’ roll.” He al­so rails against the glo­bal br­ewing con­glo­me­ra­tes ma­king cheap, in­dus­tri­al beers that ha­ve bought up ma­ny of Ger­ma­ny’s big­gest bre­we­ries. Their beer is “clas­si­cal mu­sic that has be­en dum­bed down, com­pu­te­ri­zed, ho­mo­ge­ni­zed,” Koch says. “All the soul is go­ne from it.”

The spre­ad of bland, glo­ba­li­zed, in­dus­tri­al beer even in Ger­ma­ny has Koch and fel­low ni­che bre­wers hope­ful. Ger­ma­ny’s own craft bre­we­ries and br­ew pubs pro­du­ce just 0.9 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal out­put, but the­re are al­re­a­dy 933 of them, ac­cor­ding to the Ger­man Bre­we­ry As­so­cia­ti­on. With Ger­m­ans’ thirst for spe­cial­ty beers gro­wing, Sto­ne Br­ewing might just be in the right place at the right ti­me.

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