Greg Koch 

On beer, rock and roll and being worthy

Jeremy Lanningham

Jeremy Lanningham

When Greg Koch, co-founder of Stone Brewing in Escondido, Calif., unpacked his bag from a seven-city Total Tap Takeover Tour in 2010, he vowed never to do it again. But he hedged a bit, when he brought a mini-reprise of his brew-tastic tour to Boise Sept. 13.

"They just kept asking," said Koch. "So I decided, why not?"

Stone Brewing had a meteoric rise, going from 400 barrels in 1996 to an expected 180,000 barrels in 2012. Koch credits the success to its dedication to great beer.

"How many times have you heard a brewer say, 'We only make beers that we want to drink?' And how many times is that really true? At Stone, we really do make the beers we want to drink."

Koch likens beer's four main ingredients--barley, hops, water and yeast--to the four main elements of a rock band: guitar, bass, drums and vocals.

"Think about all the rock bands out there, and how different they can be from one another with those four ingredients."

During his recent stop in the Treasure Valley, Boise Weekly talked to Koch about what rocks his beer world.

Your slogan on the Arrogant Bastard Ale was "You're not worthy." Who came up with that, and what was the thinking behind it?

I'm the guilty one. I have fun doing it. Arrogant Bastard Ale gets misinterpreted as the tone of our company sometimes. It's not. That's the tone of that beer. At Stone, we aren't and don't want to be arrogant, per se. We're confident in what we do, you know, we take pride in what we do. Sometimes people have told me that it was a brilliant use of reverse psychology. It wasn't. I was trying to warn them away. Now, true, I did it with a wink and an elbow in the ribs. I really loved the beer, but I didn't think people would gravitate toward it the way that they did.

Stone is fairly big for a craft brewery but somehow, you still seem to enjoy what I would call a cult status.

I willingly share perspectives and the love and the exuberance that I feel about this business, and enthusiasts also feel a love and exuberance toward beer. So I'm maybe a little bit of a manifestation of some of their feelings.

What do you think is the most important element in a beer?

Think of a craft beer style and there's almost nothing that isn't trending up. Sours are trending up. Imperials are trending up. Bigger and more obscure styles are being brewed more and more today than ever before.

When you're not drinking Stone, what beers are you drinking?

It's a laundry list. Oh boy, the names are a little tough to recall, especially when you've been drinking the beers. But I've enjoyed some nice local IPAs. .. And I'm always a fan of Jolly Pumpkin. Plus, I just called Tomme Arthur to say how much I loved his 4.8 percent Blonde Saison that he did through Lost Abbey. It was an absolutely delightful beer. Really awesome. I couldn't remember the last time I called up a fellow brewer specifically to tell him how much I enjoyed it. I enjoy beers all the time, but you just don't often take that step. I have to mention Russian River Brewing, because they do such delightful beers.

Anything you could recommend that we might be able to buy in Boise?

I'm fascinated when I look through the beer aisle in a town like Boise, of all the stuff I can't get [in Southern California] that I've heard of.

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