The American Craft Brewery Renaissance Officially Hits Europe

Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo credit:  Eising Studio/StockFood

Southern California-based brewery Stone Brewing Company announced Monday that it will open a location in Berlin, Germany. Interest in America’s craft beer renaissance has been slowly trickling into European consciousness, but producing American craft beer in Europe is a bold move. Could it be Stone Brewing’s way of communicating dominance in this arena?

"The German beer industry has been in decline for decades," Stone Brewing CEO and co-founder Greg Koch explained, citing a diminishing number of breweries and levels of beer consumption. Though it was German culture that brought us heritage styles like Hefeweizen, ‎Kölsch, Pilsner, and Bock, most Germans aren’t the discerning beer drinkers one might expect, he said. 

"Here’s the thing: If you’re a beer drinker in Germany, you’re mostly just drinking the industrial stuff. If you’re invited over to someone’s house for dinner, as a German, you wouldn’t bring beer. You bring wine."

Photo credit: Stone Brewing Co.

Germany wasn’t the only nation Stone Brewing considered, Koch told us. The company scouted more than 130 locations across nine Western European nations before settling on an former gasworks complex in Berlin that, following a renovation that may cost upwards of $25 million, will feature a custom-built brewhouse, restaurant, and store. (Stone Brewing is currently raising funds via an Indiegogo campaign.)

Shiny new digs aside, Koch fully anticipates some reluctance on the part of German drinkers.

"I think that if you asked the average German on the street, they would scoff at the idea of an American company opening a brewery in Germany," he admitted. But, he pointed out, Americans didn’t immediately take to Stone Brewing’s beers, either.  When the company first set up shop in San Diego in 1996, customers "thought it was bitter, strange, and too strong. Over time, though, as people try our beer, they find they quite enjoy it. I’m expecting very much the same thing here."

Koch is playing the long game. He believes that opening an American-style craft brewery in Europe could be a game-changer.

"For decades and decades, the United States has been laughed at when it comes to beer," Koch said. "They not laughing at American beer anymore."