Greg Koch from Stone on the brewery boom

Written by on April 8, 2013 in Beer - No comments

Columbus has seen quite the craft beer boom, with breweries like Four String, Hoof Hearted and Zauber opening in 2012 and several more planned to launch this year.

But craft beer is also on the rise nationwide, and a recent trip to the Craft Brewers Conference highlighted how much. A total of 409 new breweries opened nationally in 2012 – the most since the end of prohibition – bringing the total number of operating breweries to 2,347 at the end of last year. Another 1,200 are in the planning stages of opening.

At the conference I sat down with the co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing, Greg Koch (who was far more bearded than in the above photo, courtesy of Stone.) Stone is located worlds away in Escondido, California, but Koch spent about 15 years of his early life in Central Ohio, specifically Pataskala. He shared some thoughts on the industry’s growth and advice for the emerging brewery scene in Central Ohio.

“There’s almost no headwinds [to opening a brewery now],” said Koch. “When we opened, nobody wanted our beer, retailers didn’t want to stock our beer, it took between three and five years for the chain stores in southern California to put our beer in sets. Today, a brewer will get a request from a major retailer weeks before they bottle their first beer. The enthusiasm and the awareness of craft beer has continued to grow.”

“The earliest craft brewers – Anchor, Sierra Nevada and such – went off the paved highway into the desert and they had a very bumpy road,” Koch continued. “And then the second wave – us and the Dogfish Heads and Victory’s – we helped pave the road. And then the third wave, the folks of the early-mid 2000s, they put in all of the sign posts and they put in some of the rest stops. And now, we’ve got a well-paved, well-lit, well-marked, well-appointed with amenities road for everyone to be on.”

Koch says that even with thousands of breweries operating, there’s still plenty of room for breweries to thrive and for the industry to continue grow.

“As long as the rules of the road are respected, you can actually fit a fair amount of traffic on it. It’s when people get shitty on the road that there’s problems,” said Koch. “You can have a lot of vehicles on the road if we understand passing lanes and not tailgating each other and not just generally being an asshole… It’s not a demolition derby. That’s how we continue to grow and there will be room for us if we just really actively, intentionally treat each other with a lot of respect. And good driving skills – good brewing skills – are also going to be important. If you fall asleep at the wheel and you run yourself off the road you might hit somebody else on the way.”

Koch hasn’t been back to Columbus for several years, but had positive impressions of the local breweries that were around last time he visited.

“My main impression is that I haven’t spent enough time enjoying the great beer being brewed in Central Ohio.”

PHOTO CREDIT: StudioSchulz.com

About the Author

Cheryl Harrison. Editor of Drink Up Columbus. Geek of the craft beer/board game/sci-fi varieties. Fan of patios.

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