Greg Koch has the last laugh in Stone Berlin

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Psilocybeer, Aug 9, 2017.

  1. Psilocybeer

    Psilocybeer Initiate (121) Jul 11, 2017 California

  2. JakeScully

    JakeScully Crusader (716) Dec 10, 2015 France
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Yeah, this article depicts a bit the chauvinism that Americans sometimes come accross when visiting Europe. 'We have better food, better wine, better coffee', old stereotypes are difficult to forget around these part.

    Personal anecdote, I got myself my first haul from Founders earlier this year and introduced to a good mate 'Pale Joe', only came visiting him with one bottle, and for 5€ he should have better not complain. He loved it, hence later in the night suggested he try online purchase since unfortunately Founders will not open a brewery here before a long time.

    All that to say, I agree, from our side of the world, American beers= Budweiser or Corona. Coming from someone like me who's had the pleasure to sip on ~100 American craft and many world-class since joining BA, I've long abandoned the prejudice.

    PS: well maybe the coffee is still better in Europe.
     
  3. imbibehour

    imbibehour Poo-Bah (6,084) Mar 18, 2008 Maryland
    Supporter Subscriber

    From the article.

    "It has a bar that features 75 beers on tap and, for German standards, uncommonly friendly service staff."

    I can not begin to describe with intense frustration how incredibly true this statement is. There has been no other place I have been to in the world that had the level of horrifically rude and appaling service than Berlin even by European standards (which are far more relaxed and slower than in the US). There were exceptions, mostly in the Turkish places, and a few odd ones that I was eating out at, but it was just mind boggling how bad it was and how frequent it was from one area to the next, regardless of the cuisine style and even price tag.

    Although I will admit, it's cheap, and the food was particularly good.
     
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  4. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,882) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    You just have to act like a Bavarian to get any humor out of the experience, it worked for me -- and even helped to break the ice. :grin:
     
  5. Roadkizzle

    Roadkizzle Initiate (194) Nov 6, 2007 Texas
    Beer Trader

    I will agree with the prejudices Europeans have about American products, but in the article I was turned off by what seemed to be Koch's condescension for the German beer.

    “Germany’s industrial beer is better than our industrial beer,” Koch said. “But, of course, who wants to drink industrial beer?”

    Germans, he said, pay less for beer than any other Western Europeans. “Most Germans will react as if that’s a point of pride, like, ‘It’s cheap, it’s a great thing,’” he said. “But I say: Hang on. Cheap is not an attribute. The only possible result of cheap beer is cheap beer.”

    Koch said he wants Germans to try what he insists is better-tasting beer, even if it costs double or triple what they’re used to paying.

    The bigger ubiquitous beer brands in Germany are cheap industrial beers. That's why a lot of Germans deride them as fernseherbier and other names. But there are also a LOT of truly exceptional beers throughout Germany.
     
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  6. Hoppsbabo

    Hoppsbabo Crusader (796) Jan 29, 2012 United Kingdom (England)

    Really? That wasn't my experience of Berlin at all. Was it just after they brought down the wall or something? The East siders were notoriously soviet in their ways back then. I found the bars pretty friendly a decade or so ago. By a country mile the worst service I've experienced anywhere is New York. Unbelievably shitty people.
     
  7. rgordon

    rgordon Defender (692) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    I agree completely. Lessons in how not to do manners envelop New York City. Self-entitled Americans in Europe are tough for many of us to explain. The best way to get along with people is to begin with a smile. Never fails.
     
  8. JakeScully

    JakeScully Crusader (716) Dec 10, 2015 France
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Absolutely, also saying a few words in the language to greets the people never hurt either. We don't expect people to be fluent, but trust me it helps.

    Goodness me, this ain't tripadvisor.com :wink:
     
  9. imbibehour

    imbibehour Poo-Bah (6,084) Mar 18, 2008 Maryland
    Supporter Subscriber

    Was there about 2 years ago, and I am talking specifically restaurants not bars
     
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  10. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Yes, Berlin is known for such attitudes. In the 2000s, Walmart had heard of the extremely poor customer service that was (is) pretty much pervasive in German retail establishments and thought it saw a clear niche to enter the market under. When they introduced their greeters and baggers, the Germans took offense at strangers talking to them and touching their food (i.e. putting it into bags for them). Germany is a very strange place -- and a baffling market -- at times. Coming in with American guns blazing often backfires for understandable (but just as often odd and baffling) reasons.

    As it is, this piece seems to be telling a very very different story from everything I have heard and read about Stone Berlin (be it from my in-laws who live there, friends who have visited, or the local press there). The hurdles alluded to seem to be fairly daunting, with most Berliners rejecting the high prices, the stubborn clinging to cans in a culture that reuses bottles religiously, and the general attitude of knowing what's better for a place with a long history of beer quality, freshness, and brand loyalty.
     
    #10 herrburgess, Aug 11, 2017 at 5:27 AM
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017 at 5:33 AM
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  11. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    As for this quote from Koch: "The only possible result of cheap beer is cheap beer."

    What an absolute load of shit.

    The same beer Mahr's Brau charges 2,80 Euro for in Bamberg costs 7,90 less than 200 miles up the road at Stone Berlin. Why? Customer service? "Craft?" The fact is, when you are trying to fleece people in the name of something they don't need (i.e. "craft" beer), they are rightfully going to call you out on it.

    That's not brainwashing, that's common sense.
     
    #11 herrburgess, Aug 11, 2017 at 5:39 AM
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017 at 5:51 AM
  12. Ranbot

    Ranbot Devotee (437) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Hold up a minute... are you reading into the statement too much? Koch didn't say anything about quality or flavor. Cheap beer = Cheap beer is true. Just like 1 = 1. I read this as he wants people make a choice based on more than just cost, which is fair. If Mahr makes a good beer for half the cost I don't think Koch would criticize them or anyone for drinking it, but he doesn't have to openly support Mahr either, as he has his own business interests to look after.
     
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  13. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,931) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Supporter

    There are two ‘halves’ to Stone Berlin: a brewpub and a production brewery.

    From the article:

    “About half of the splendidly refurbished 34,000-square-foot factory floor in the red brick building was turned into the brewery that will produce 925,000 gallons of beer this year for Germany and export to 24 European countries — especially Britain, Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia.”

    Does anybody know how well the packaged (canned) Stone beers are selling throughout Europe (in particular Britain, Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia)?

    Cheers!

    @Crusader
     
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  14. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (1,944) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    I think the implication is in how he uses cheap and industrial interchangeably, and is certainly using industrial as a pejorative. Plus, he has included Jever among the industrial beers he destroyed in the ground breaking stunt.
     
  15. Ranbot

    Ranbot Devotee (437) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Another thing... Koch is certainly opening the door wide for people to make their own bad associations with cheap beer (like I think you did), but he is not pushing anyone through the door. He is playing into human biases and logical weaknesses for the sake of his own business, but he is not saying what what you are inferring. Maybe I'm being pedantic, but I think what a person actually says is important, possibly more important the meaning refracted through someone else's view.
     
  16. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    I read it as inexpensive beer = low quality. I can see your point, though. There are certainly beers (especially in off-premise stores) that Germans buy primarily because they are inexpensive. However, in the context of gastronomy, most beers are priced similarly whether "cheap" (like, say, Oettinger or Krombacher) or quality (like, say, Jever or Rothaus).

    As to the production costs, I think this is another attempt to mislead customers. I know from my in-laws that the explanation Stone Berlin frequently gives for its higher prices is that the ingredients are of higher quality and thus cost more. This is straight up BS. Also the 1=1 explanation doesn't account for why Mahrs costs nearly 3x the price in a working-class suburb of Berlin -- which is a very inexpensive city on the whole -- vs 200 miles down the road.

    In short, I just dont buy the concept of "cheap" (or expensive for that matter) that Koch and Stone Berlin are selling, as it paints with far too wide a brush. It may make sense to Americans, but most Germans see it differently.
     
    #16 herrburgess, Aug 11, 2017 at 3:06 PM
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017 at 3:13 PM
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  17. Ranbot

    Ranbot Devotee (437) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    And yet Koch gave Jever more respect [relatively speaking] than I've ever seen him give a competitor product...
    Obviously people are going to interpret his words, he knows that too and it's an integral part of Stone's marketing. My point is he selects his words very carefully and does not actually say all these insults. Koch lets the rest of you do that for him. He brings people to the edge of the cliff, but people jump on their own accord.
     
  18. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

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  19. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    That's true. But Germans have terrible sarcasm detectors :wink:

    EDIT: believe me, I get his schtick. But trying to translate that (which works well when operating in the US beer scene/culture) to the very different German beer scene/culture is not at all a 1=1 thing.
     
    #19 herrburgess, Aug 11, 2017 at 3:12 PM
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017 at 3:17 PM
  20. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (1,944) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Fair enough, but I think my backhanded compliment detector is pretty finely tuned :wink:.
     
  21. Ranbot

    Ranbot Devotee (437) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Understandable.

    Things seem to be working for Stone though. I suspect the brewpub is selling the experience as much as the beer. That's an easier way for a customer to justify paying a higher price.
     
  22. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    I have no idea what their numbers look like, but much of what I have heard and read (anecdotal from friends and in-laws as well as in the German press) seems to indicate Stone Berlin is underperforming pretty significantly. See the article I posted a link to where the German vs the UK/Scandinavian/Russian markets is discussed. Again, though, without knowing the numbers, it is hard to say.
     
  23. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    For the sake of comparison, I recently read an article about a "craft" beer bar in Franconia that is facing all kinds of outrage from locals because they are (1) selling 0.4 l beers instead of the traditional 0.5 l and (2) having the gall to charge 3,50 Euro for their beers instead of the more typical 2,00-2,50 Euro most other places in town charge. With Stone at 7,90 Euro for these same beers, you can maybe imagine some of the reactions.
     
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  24. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Aspirant (221) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    You mean the "loud, obnoxious cunt" schtick? Yeah, that's not going to go over very well anywhere outside the US, especially in Germany.
     
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  25. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Aspirant (221) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Never had a problem in all my travels. Guess I'm just a happy guy that likes to drink and have fun and most people can see that. I'm sure some take exception, but nobody's ever said anything.
     
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  26. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Aspirant (221) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    He's not doing very well at endearing himself there, I would think. Then again, I'm sure German Millennials are just as entitled as US Millennials are, so appealing to that target audience might be his saving grace.
     
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  27. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    I am sure he has some sort of following. Then again, I just saw an article in the Bild newspaper about how Berlin hipsters have a new favorite beer: a retro-Helles from Maisel-owned Bayreuther Brauerei. Trends come and go very fast...maybe "craft" has already lost its hipster cache in Berlin?
     
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  28. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,998) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Question. So far as you know or have heard from your in-laws, was Mahrs available anywhere in Berlin before the Stone tap room was set up?
     
  29. Crusader

    Crusader Initiate (190) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    So far (since last summer) they have had a few limited time releases at the monopoly with small volumes of their IPA, Arrogant Bastard and some other brands. Those will have amounted to quite small volumes, IPA for example which was launched last summer for a limited time sold about 11000 liters, or about 94 barrels for the year 2016. They haven't won any year round tenders as of yet, which is where the "big" volumes are to be had (brands such as IPA, Maximus IPA and New Dogtown Pale ale from Lagunitas sold between 2000-3100 barrels at the monopoly last year, putting those brands in the top 10 of imported American brands sold via the monopoly).

    On the other hand I can't say what kind of volumes they've sold in the on-premise channel since such statistics are not publically available, but aside from Brooklyn lager which can be found pretty much in every bar distributed to by Carlsberg Sweden I have a hard time imagining that individual craft brands would be able to rack up considerable volume sales on-premise here (though the margins are probably not bad).
     
  30. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (8,436) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I had two thoughts on this that I thought I'd throw in.

    #1, Stone is not the first to brew American style beers in Berlin. They are the first Americans to do it, but there's been a movement going on since at least 2012. There are also other German breweries doing American beer styles, even in Bamberg.

    #2, I have to disagree with Psilocybeer on this, but just for his numbers and terms:
    That's just not true, at least in Berlin. Berlin is the New York of Germany, and while beer is still more of a commodity the cost is still higher than 1€, and we're talking about mass produced product that's only "good", not great. A Berliner Pilsner (which I scored a 3.25) is still around 1,50€.
     
    #30 NeroFiddled, Aug 11, 2017 at 4:46 PM
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017 at 5:00 PM
  31. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Yes, shops like Hopfen und Malz in Berlin have carried it for a while.
     
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  32. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,998) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Ahhh, interesting, it's been so long since I was last in Berlin I'd been wondering if prices there were still generally higher because of being a big city. (Just as they often are in Philly, compared with Lititz.)
     
  33. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,998) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Thanks. Fresh and on tap or bottle only?
     
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  34. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    I had assumed he meant for a single bottle/can at an off-premise place. And that he was comparing to Stone's price for a single can in a similar outlet.
     
  35. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    I know Mahrs has brought kegs up there at times, but I was referring to bottles at the Hopfen und Malz store. FWIW, I believe that store keeps very fresh product.
     
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  36. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (8,436) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    As did I. Less than a $ is less than ,85€... you can't buy any "good" beer for ,85€ at an off-premise in Berlin. Maybe a Lidl or Aldi.
     
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  37. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    Also, keep in mind that kegged (and force-carbed) Ungespundetes is not the way that beer is normally served.
     
  38. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,010) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    There are certainly cans of beer available in Berlin at kiosks and gas stations (and discount grocers) at that price...or even lower.
     
  39. JayWhitson

    JayWhitson Devotee (436) Feb 25, 2015 Montana
    Beer Trader

    I like my coffee like my American craft beer, imperial and loaded with adjuncts.
     
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  40. imbibehour

    imbibehour Poo-Bah (6,084) Mar 18, 2008 Maryland
    Supporter Subscriber

    The city to me is a real unique place in Europe, and more so it's unlike the rest of the country.

    You wont get a real "authentic" German experience in Berlin, it's a big metropolis, there are lots of foreigners as I probably heard more French and Russian and other languages spoken in the streets than German.

    It does have everything that a great big city has to offer, and great transportation to get around, but also a you can't get there from here so easily as well.

    It was a big shock somewhat to me, as my mother is German, and I had some very different expectations of what Berlin was supposed to be when I visited.

    Now when I went outside the area and in the rurals it was a totally different story. Spreewald was like a gem, I'd go visit that place again in a heartbeat, the people there are also fantastic.
     
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