On Arrogant Bastards and Never Selling Out

While I haven’t been writing over the past couple of months because I had quite a lot going on in my personal life, the Philippine craft beer scene has been expanding by leaps and bounds. Several new players popped up all over the country, new craft beer -centric and exclusive restaurants and bars opened, and established craft brewers rolled out new releases. More events and launches are coming up over the next two months as well. However, despite the exciting new developments lately, only one thing was able to get me to come out from under my rock — the chance to meet the founder and CEO of Stone Brewing Co., Greg Koch.

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Greg, seen above on the left, is currently on a sabbatical from his duties as the King Gargoyle at Stone. The Philippines was one of the last few stops on a world tour with his wife. Thanks to Jim Araneta of Global Beer Exchange, who pulled out all the stops to ensure that Greg would drop by the Bottle Shop, and who shipped in two of Stone’s latest limited releases, hardcore hopheads were able to not only meet and greet one of their heroes, but share drinks with him as well.

Honestly, if you don’t at least have an idea of who Greg Koch is, you don’t deserve to call yourself a hophead. I would name him among the three most influential craft brewing personalities alive (R.I.P. Michael Jackson) along with Garrett Oliver and Sam Calagione. Humorously, when Jim said that he was thankful to be hosting one of the biggest names in the industry, Greg joked and exclaimed, “Whoa! Sam Calagione’s here?”

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Some of the more memorable takeaways I had of that evening, paraphrased of course:

  • Greg didn’t have a favorite beer in particular, or even a favorite style, but when forced, he admitted a fondness for the more hoppy brews like IPAs.
  • Don’t do anything you’re not proud of. If, as a business, you come out with a few products that you release just because you “have to”, but can’t stand by them, you don’t have integrity as a business.
  • It took a lot of hard work to sell Stone beers, and but in the end, it was persistence (“It cost a lot of shoe leather”) and the quality of the product itself that made the company successful. Stone never and will never advertise, or even put a sign on their door.
  • It didn’t matter to him if people liked his beer, as long as he was proud of it. There would probably be 7 billion other people who didn’t.
  • He hates “beer nazis”, notwithstanding the trash talk on Stone’s bottles. He would rather have people welcome others into the world of good beer. (And no, I am not a beer nazi, [unless provoked])
  • The arrogance of “being worthy” is a decision one makes for oneself. It’s not about putting other people down, but about claiming for oneself that one deserves what is good.
  • Greg’s promise: “I will never sell out.” And may we never do so, either.

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While Greg was speaking, people started opening the beers for the evening. Most opted to begin with Matt’s Burning Rosids, an unique beer that had to make do with the classification of “imperial saison”. This was brewed in remembrance of Greg’s friend and coworker Matt, who figured in a fatal accident at the brewery. This beer was a fitting tribute, smoky, funky, slightly hoppy, not too sweet, a tinge of sourness: all of beer’s — and life’s — little flavors and experiences in one intense brew. Cheers to Matt!

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The other beer was Suede, an imperial porter brewed as a collaboration with 10 Barrel and Bluejacket, with calendula (marigold), honey and jasmine thrown in. It was a very pleasant but still robust imperial porter, with its sweet and floral elements, as compared to the more aggressive and powerful dark ales that Stone is known for. It’s a great peg for a beer brewed with honey, which I hope to be able to come out with one day (if not on my own, then in collaboration or contract with a willing local brewer).

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Greg wanted to try some of the local craft brews. Katipunan Indio Pale Ale was on tap, and while brewer Raffy was scared sh-tless, and Kiyo arrived after judgment had been rendered, the brew was met with approval by the Arrogant Bastard himself. Hence, the boys could breathe a sigh of relief and have their poster signed. Everyone else brought their memorabilia for signing as well, or had their bottles of Matt’s Burning Rosids or Suede signed. I was going to bring my anniversary bottles, but in my excitement I totally forgot.

It was a fun night, but it was also Mother’s Day, so we had to duck out as things were going full swing in order to catch up for dinner (luckily, at another craft beer joint, but it was my Mom’s choice, not mine =p). The festivities continued at the Bottle Shop, and despite it being early, the high A.B.V. of the evening’s offerings had everyone buzzing and buzzed. Here’s to being worthy and meeting your heroes! Cheers!

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