Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Brewed a Stone's Throw Away?

Stone to open a Brewery in Europe? from stonebrew on Vimeo.

Something potentially exciting to think about before Christmas: Stone are entertaining the idea of opening a brewery in Europe. It’s just an idea now and they are looking into it, searching for locations, seeing if it’s financially viable, seeking an RFP (Request for Proposal). See the video above for more details or their blog post is here.

I think they should come to London. We need more beer brewed in the capital (even if it is American!) and we need a cool American-style beer bar attached to the brewery that sells great craft beer. A few brew sites have closed in recent years so it’d be interesting to see what’s going on with them now – Stag, Youngs, Bunker, or there’s room for development somewhere, I’m sure - Meantime, for example, are moving/growing into a bigger site soon. Here's a list of London breweries, past and present. The other reason I’d vote for London is that I’d quite like a job there and I can happily commute from Tonbridge.

I also suggest Holland or Scandinavia as the beer culture there would surely be welcoming of a brewery like Stone. Or, they could pitch up in between a couple of monasteries in Belgium and freak out some Monk’s with their big Bastard beers.

I think this is a cool bit of news. I’ve long liked the idea of beers being contract brewed in the UK so that they are fresher or more locally produced, but this is an even better, bigger step. Perhaps a coalition of the bigger US craft brewers could be formed to set up in the brewery – Stone, Dogfish Head, etc, spreading the cost more, or just allowing different contract brews and import/export. Who knows. In their own words, they don’t know where it’s going to go but they’re gonna find out. I’m excited to see the developments.

Any thoughts on where would genuinely be a good place for the brewery to go? Do you think this could be a good business move? Would you rather drink Stone brewed in Europe than US, assuming they taste exactly the same, or is there something essentially lost between brewing in San Diego and Europe?


  1. Exciting stuff, i think they should come to Yorkshire, we have the best water up here!

    i would offer to sell them my garden but i have a feeling it wont be big enough and the neighbours might have something to say about it!

    Seriously though i think there would be lots of exciting sites around yorksire - or how about the tetleys brewery if carlsberg do shut it?

  2. It is certainly an interesting idea, wouldn't be surprised if BrewDog were considering a similar move to America.

    If it worked out it could also spark an influx of other big US brewers.

  3. I don't know.... One of the things that micros have managed to do is to reclaim the sense of regionalism of the beer, as opposed to the macros that sell a brand, not a drink.

    If it's true that Stone is planning to up shop in Europe (and provided they do it under the same brand name) they would risk becoming a bit like, say, Guinness in the eyes of many.

    Of course, they could also set up a Stone Co. London or whatever and brew a completely different range of beers than what they brew in the US.

    IMO the best move would be to operate under another brand name, very much like wine makers do.

  4. Andy, Yorkshire?! Come on man, be serious!! ;)

    BB, interesting indeed, as for an influx, who knows?!

    PF, nice comment. The location of a brewery is very important to their brand for these craft beers and the link to Guinness is interesting. If it was Stone London (or wherever) then it would need to have that seperation in the name from the Stone San Diego, I agree. And different beers? Hell yeah, more Stone and different Stone!

  5. Exciting, but... contract brewing of all the US beers would feel too close to the mega-brewers brewing everything in Luton or Wales.

    I would rather that they - as others have said - create their own UK brewery that does brew some US beers, but also their own take on beer. You may even see their US brewery taking on the UK brews.

    Exciting all the same. And I'm sure that they have a space to employ me. :-)

  6. I'm not sure how I'd feel about this. The beer they brewed at Shepherd Neame for Wetherspoons was lovely - their 7% IPA but with (as I heard it) one of the US hops replaced with a British one. That was done on the pilot plant. However, would a new brewery be a 'mirror' plant making the same beers locally for Europe as they make in Cali?

    How big could they start? They're niche of a niche right now, so there'd be a market to develop before they could be any kind of major player.

    BeerBear: I imagine BrewDog would be light-years from this kind of thing, assuming they could capitalise it, although maybe they'd be a potential partner for Stone given the link-ups which have already occurred between the two brewers.

  7. Sid:
    Just to clarify, the Stone California Double IPA that we brewed at Shepherd Neame was a new recipe. Our goal was to create a "hybrid" beer using both American and British ingredients and brewing techniques..The malts were 100% British, the bittering hops were UK Target, and the finishing hops were American: Centennial and Simcoe. We used our own house yeast to ferment the beer. And we brewed over 400 bbls of it. It was 2 full size batches.

    All of us here at Stone Brewing Co. are tremendously excited about this new project.

    -Mitch Steele
    Head Brewer
    Stone Brewing Co.

  8. Thanks Mitch - when I visited Sheps early last year, I asked where the beer had been brewed and the bloke in the taproom told me it came off the pilot plant.

  9. Of course, I'm gonna say Germany, so they could rattle some cages here. Nothing to do with wanting easier access to insanely hopped beers! :P

    Or Ireland, because we're lovely people :)

  10. Stone couldn't open a brewery in Britain, people would only slag them off for ripping off Brewdog! ;-)

  11. A very interesting idea , especially as to me the concept of good beer from the US is an impossibility. At least until today, when I treated myself to a bottle of "Sierra Nevada", which, as I write is lurking , waiting to help me celebrate Boxing Day.I've read much about American IPA's on sites like this, and am intrigued.
    Back to the point: my natural instinct is not to import beer from thousands of miles away, so a fusion of US enterprise with UK (Kentish) raw materials has a lot to offer.

  12. Richard, yes, that seems to be the thinking. A carbon copy lifted from San Diego and placed somewhere in Europe wouldn't be in keeping with the craft beer ethos, but if they brew a few different beers... all is fine!

    Sid, niche of a niche, yes, but hopefully it'd push everyone else forward a bit? And the pilot plant at Sheps is making some great beer right now, I like what they are doing.

    Mitch, cheers for your comment, it's an exciting idea and hopefully the comments here are helpful.

    Barry, that'd sure be interesting if they set-up in Germany!

    Ed, lol!

    wittenden, the US are making some of the best beers in the world right now (so are the UK!), try a few, there are some great ones around. Sierra Nevada is a classic. It won't blow your head off with hops but it's great. As for the fusion of US enterprise and UK produce then great, although I think a LOT of hops would start being imported!!

  13. Wroclaw would be a perfect location.

  14. One thing seems for sure, if they set up in London, they won't be short of job applications!

    I prefer the idea of a second branch with the same name but brewing a new set of beers. Otherwise, availability aside, will it actually make much difference to us European drinkers?

    Mark's right about London. There's shockingly few craft brewers here. I say do it in London.

  15. I reckon they should swap the West Coast for the West Country, for a start the surfing will give it a home from home feel…Stone Cornwall, like the sound of it.

  16. As far as the West Country goes ... they should set up in the same place as Sharp's. That way it would allow them to grow from a Stone to a Rock.



  17. Sid, FYI, if memory serves, Shep's pilot plant is 10-UK-Barrels (40 x 9gal firkins / 2880-pints), so it would be hard work to fulfil the JDW order.

    I spent ages trying (& failing!) to find online confirmation of my recollection that Shep's large plant was 200UKBbls, & then I spotted Mitch's confirmation of it.

    In October/November the pilot plant did however release "A classic American IPA - Kentucky Bluebird - 5.0% ABV"

    from http://www.shepherdneame.co.uk/beers/exports/PilotBrewery.html