18-year-old Stone Brewing Company grows up, leaves home, comes to Europe

In a decommissioned gas processing facility in Mariendorf, 10 kilometers due south of Berlin city center, plans were unveiled on Saturday, 19th July for a significant new addition to the beer landscape in Europe: Stone Brewing Company is building its new $25M brewery and restaurant here in the Marienpark Berlin, scheduled to open by end 2015/beginning 2016.

Stone Berlin Site

Stone Berlin Company Berlin – Site


The Site

Just south of the historic Teltow Canal, along the railway tracks that lead out of Berlin city, the disused GASAG gas works sit amongst overgrown fields that are the home to grazing sheep and solar panels. Rising prominently over the trees and industrial buildings are the remnants of the gas works in a beautiful, green setting.

Big, gleaming balls of steel

Remnants of the gasworks.

Just visible from the local S2 train on its route south towards Blankenfelde, the Stone brewery and restaurant will be built into a pair of adjoining red-brick halls over the next 18 months that are already adorned with the iconic gargoyle.

Stone Brewing Company Berlin

Stone Brewing Company Berlin


Stone Brewing Company – a U.S. Craft Beer Success Story

Stone Brewing was founded in San Marcos, California in 1996 by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner. This was 18 years ago, before the glory days of the IPA, but even since these early years, Stone has become synonymous with unique, ambitious and uncompromising beers.

The labelling has always been provokative. I still remember the first time I had an Arrogant Bastard Ale in 2006, the label declaring (tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek): “This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth.”

However, their strategy of combining of cheekiness with consistently ambitious and well-brewed beers has been a success, as their sales figures indicate, selling a quarter of a million HL (213,000 barrels) of beer in 2013.


Stone output in HL

Stone output in HL


What does this mean for the German beer industry?

This is a shot of adrenaline in the arm of an ailing domestic brewing industry. After seven years of declining beers sales and the continued closure of breweries  in Germany, this bold move from the 10th largest craft brewery in the U.S. will doubtlessly be a wake-up call and defines a genuine starting shot for all craft breweries here.

Whether the beers are to your taste or not: Stone Brewing Company don’t do things by halves and other German craft brewers stand to benefit from this big move made by an 18-year-old brewery, that has already played a significant role in the successful adoption of craft beer in U.S.


Do not operate heavy machinery...

Do not operate heavy machinery…

And a final note to Radler-drinkers: although a brewery visit will mark a pleasant stop to break up a bike-ride along Teltow Canal, Greg Koch himself has banned anyone from mixing lemonade with his beer on the premises…

Tasting Notes: Köstritzer Meisterwerke – Black Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing

A foreword on ‘Crafty’ beer producers and knee-jerk reactions

We’re all familiar with the state of beer in Germany: the sale of craft beer is growing at an exponential rate, while beer sales as a whole have fallen for seven consecutive years. Many industrial beer brands are keeping an eye on the craft beer segment and are launching spin-off “craft beer” breweries with independent brands in order to capitalise on this small, but growing market. Others are releasing these beers under their own label, in the hope that the brand identity might help them reach a wide audience of more conservative beer drinkers.

The Köstritzer Meisterwerke series falls squarely into this second category. Acquired by the Bitburger Group in 1991, Köstritzer has a strong brand identity with its Schwarzbier, a style that has been made by the brewery for centuries. It was a surprise then, that Bitburger chose to launch two new beers – an American Pale Ale and a Belgian Witbier – under this Schwarzbier brand, when it already has its own Kraft Werk brand on the market, with its own Pale Ale, IPA and Belgian Abbey Tripel.

The naive knee-jerk reaction for many enthusiastic beer lovers, of course, is to write these new Köstritzer Meisterwerke beers off, giving them little or no attention at all. Are these beers not ultimately the wolf in sheep’s clothing? However, I find it fascinating that the Köstritzer brand is being used alongside these beer styles. It is important to remember that for many German beer drinkers, their first encounter with a hoppy pale ale might be when they find the Köstritzer Pale Ale on the supermarket shelf. Furthermore, the choice of brewing a Belgian Witbier (using the coriander seeds and orange peel appropriate for the style, deliberately outside the traditions of the Reinheitsgebot) is a big step for any large brewery, and one that will encourage other German breweries in the long run.

Having heard positive reports about the pale ale, I looked forward to trying these two beers. Here are my tasting notes:

Köstritzer Meisterwerke

Köstritzer Meisterwerke

Tasting Notes: Köstritzer Meisterwerke – WITBIER

Pale straw in colour, the WITBIER certainly looks the part. I was unable to find out whether Köstritzer used flaked/unmalted wheat or a higher percentage of wheat malt.

It is extremely light in the nose. A hint of lemon/citrus and coriander, but much more subdued that the Belgian counterparts.

In the body, this beer is quite round and sweet, with the cereal qualities of the pilsner malt dominating the profile. Entirely lacking in any of the phenolic/spicey character expected from an appropriate Belgian Wit yeast. Very light bitter finish.

Conclusion: Overall, a very light, thirst quenching beer, but entirely lacking in Belgian character. This beer tastes more like a German Helles with a hint of coriander added to it. The subtle, spicey, peppery yeast complexity required for this style is not just subdued - it’s entirely absent - and the beer is not dry enough. I suspect that the wrong yeast was used for fermentation and that the brewer decided that coriander and orange peel in the brew-kettle were sufficient to make this Belgian. Once again, the contribution of the appropriate yeast and fermentation management has been underestimated and we are left with a compromised, hybrid beer.

Pale Ale

Pale Ale

Tasting Notes: Köstritzer Meisterwerke - PALE ALE

The PALE ALE is a nice dark amber colour.

In the aroma, the citrus notes dominate; lemons and oranges, rather than tropical or grapefruit.

It is quite fruity/juicy up front, with sweetness from the caramel malts coming through, but slowly subsides into a long, very unpleasant bitterness. After taking several sips, this bitterness aggregates and is like chewing on a very bitter grapefruit rind!

Conclusion: On the positive side, Köstritzer should be applauded for going ‘all in’ with this pale ale. The choice of Citra, Delta, Hallertau Blanc, Galaxy and Calypso hops show that they were prepared to brew a hop-dominant pale ale. Unfortunately, this beer is extremely off-balance. It is far too bitter and simply does not have the malt body to stand up to this bitterness.

Once again, I suspect that this was brewed by a well-intentioned brewer who does not understand the style and pushed the IBUs to inappropriate heights. Yes, American Pale Ales and IPAs can sometimes have an aggressive bitterness – but balance is key. Unfortunately, this pale ale needs to be reformulated to make it palatable at all.


Hypocrisy and the Reinheitsgebot

Finally, it is worth mentioning the Reinheitsgebot and how it applies to these two beers:

The Belgian Witbier style is a spiced wheat beer. It requires two natural ingredients – coriander and orange peel – to be used when brewing the beer. This is not a law written anywhere – both historically and since Peter Celis revived it in the 1960, this is just part of the style. I have to applaud Köstritzer/Bitburger for getting a special exemption from the Ministry in Thüringen to brew this beer according to this traditional style, with the correct spices and to sell their WITBIER as beer in Germany. This is a step in the right direction and sets an important precedent.

Marketing material for Meisterwerke

Marketing material for Meisterwerke – click for large version


Unfortunately, this conviction does not carry over to the marketing department. If you look at the marketing material for the two beers, the PALE ALE is proudly announced as: “Pale Ale – the popular beer speciality of the British Isles, interpreted by the Köstritzer Brewmasters and brewed according to the German Reinheitsgebot.” (Let’s put aside the fact that the PALE ALE is clearly brewed in the style of an American Pale Ale). My question is: why invoke the Reinheitsgebot at all!?

If the Reinheitsgebot is irrelevant for the WITBIER, that is proudly displayed beside this PALE ALE, then it is irrelevant for the PALE ALE, another style that is not traditional for Germany. Dear marketing team - you can’t have it both ways and not look like hypocrites!



Notes on other Witbiers brewed in Germany

Another German brewery, Crew Republic, has just launched their Experimental 4.0 beer – labelled as a Witbier. However, only malted barley, wheat, hops, water and yeast were used. Although the brewery took the trouble to source genuine Belgian witbier yeast, in my view, this is still not a Witbier, but rather another hybrid/compromise. One can only speculate why coriander and orange peel were left out of the brewing kettle in a brewery in Bavaria…

Although obviously not a ‘traditional’ Belgian Witbier, Pax Bräu’s From Asia With Love, a “Doppel-Wit”, is a wonderful twist on the style: this time with spices (including Szechuan pepper, ginger and lemongrass) added to the brewing kettle and genuine Belgian witbier yeast used in fermentation. Unfortunately only a seasonal beer, this is really wonderful if you can find it.

A toast to the U.S. and to Independence – U.S. Craft Beer History

The Taste of U.S.A.

The Birth of Craft Brewing

This Friday, 4th July is U.S. Independence Day – the commemoration of the Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1776 and generally accepted as the birth date of the nation.

As we all know, the global craft beer movement owes a huge debt to the legacy of the pioneering craft beer brewers of the U.S. more than any other country. Out of desperation, more than other any other factor, U.S. microbrewers in the 1970s and 1980s were forced to innovate. The rebirth of the pale ale in the U.S. had more to do with limitations on an independent brewer than any master-plan to bring flavourful beers back to the masses.

In a story unfamiliar to many European craft beer drinkers, it was a tiny brewery called New Albion Brewing Company, in Sonoma, California, that was the first newly founded microbrewery of the modern age and one with lasting influence. Founded by Jack McAuliffe in 1976, after his stint in the U.S. Navy in Scotland introduced him to British ales, the aim was to create top-fermenting beers (ales) rather than attempt to brew the bottom-fermenting lagers produced by the Kingdom of Great Brewers. The three beers brewed in the 200L brewery were a pale ale, a porter and a stout, all bottle-conditioned.


The Birth of an American Pale Ale: New Albion Pale Ale

In a fortuitous turn of events, the U.S.D.A. hop breeding program at Oregon State University in the next state to the north, (center for hop growing for the previous century) released a new aroma hop variety in 1971. They had shopped this around the Kingdom of Great Brewers without any luck. (Coors did test the hop out in very low quantities in 1972). Industrial brewers in the U.S. (as in Germany today) were interested in hops largely for their bittering qualities and found the new citrus notes in this new variety off-putting.


Jack McAuliffe, brewing his first batch of his pale ale, had access to a 200 pound bale of Cascade – but not of any other hop, so his New Albion Pale Ale, was brewed with one single hop, cascade. A third of the hops were used in the bittering at 60 minutes, a third for flavour at 30 minute and a third for aroma at 15 minutes. An American Pale Ale was born.

The Legacy of New Albion

Although Cascade hops have become a regular fixture in the craft beer movement in the four decades since this first American Pale Ale was brewed, unfortunately for New Albion, they were a little too ahead of their time and had to close the brewery in 1982. In acknowledgement of his role in craft beer history, Boston Brewing Company did brew a version of the recipe together with Jack McAuliffe in July 2012 and his daughter is in the process of relaunching the brewery today.

However, it was the impact that this beer had on other brewers that affects us most today. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was founded by Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi in Chico, California 1979, under the guidance of Jack McAuliffe. Their first beer brewed at the brewery, the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, also brewed with Cascade hops, has become the flagship beer for craft brewers and is today the second-best selling craft beer in the U.S.


The Birth of the India Pale Ale: Anchor Liberty Ale

Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco has a longer history. Founded in 1896, it suffered under the weight of light lagers being mass-produced by the Kingdom of Great Brewers in the 1950s and 60s, and was also set to close in 1965, when Fritz Maytag purchased it. The first beer brewed there was the historic Steam Beer, that is still the flagship beer of the brewery.


In July 1975, the Anchor Liberty Ale was brewed. Although the style of India Pale Ale was not applied to the beer in 1975, it had an unusually high degree of bitterness (49 IBUs) and was dry-hopped with cascade. Brewed almost two years before the New Albion Pale Ale, the significance of the Liberty Ale is often overlooked today, in the landscape of adventurous IPAs and Imperial IPAs that eclipse it.


This Friday, I will be toasting to the U.S. and to Independence with some old and new beers from the leading U.S. craft breweries.

(See below for more details on this tasting)




The Taste of U.S.A: A Tasting Covering 40 years of U.S. Craft Brewing

In celebration of the influence of these U.S. Brewers on the craft beer industry, I will be hosting a tasting consisting only of beers from U.S. craft breweries this Friday, 4th July. I have divided the evening into two sections: beers from these historic breweries and then a look at new beers arriving to Berlin, as a comparison to show how far brewing has progressed. While New Albion Pale Ale is no longer available, I have included beers from Anchor Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and representing the new brewers, Victory and Smuttynose.

The complete line-up is listed below. Pre-registration (with payment) is required and we have about 10 places left: https://craftbeercenter.yapsody.com/


Beer Line Up:

  • Anchor Steam Beer: The classic beer that influenced New Albion
  • Anchor Liberty Ale: Arguably, the first American IPA of the modern era
  • Sierra Nevada Porter: One of Sierra Nevada’s first beers and a classic American porter
  • Sierra Nevada Stout: Brother to the Porter, best drunk side-by-side to contrast
  • Smuttynose Old Brown Dog: A modern American Brown Ale
  • Smuttynose Finestkind IPA: A modern American IPA hopped with Simcoe, Centennial, Santiam
  • Victory Dirtwolf: A Double IPA with a cocktail of American hops: Chinook, Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe
  • Victory Hop Ranch: An Imperial IPA with Mosaic & Azacca: hip hops from 2012 and 2013 releases


Victory & Smuttynose beers

Victory & Smuttynose beers



Berlin Craft Beer – new logo

The Berlin Craft Beer group and blog have a new look. The community now has over 460 members and continues to grow, as the interest for craft beer in Berlin starts to accelerate.

With more interest from bars, more breweries making good local beers, better access to beers from international craft breweries and a growing number of beer festivals in the calendar – all the evidence indicates that craft beer is growing roots in the capital.

Increased exposure requires a sleeker design, fitting for the craft beer drinking community. I hope that you like it.

To join the Berlin Craft Beer group, sign up on meetup.com here: LINK


New Logo

Berlin Craft Beer – new logo

Berlin Craft Beer Fest – 30 & 31 May 2014

The beer line-up for the Berlin Craft Beer Fest this Friday & Saturday has been finalised.

All other details for the festival can be found on the official site: here

See you at the RAW Gelände!

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 28 May  12.47.58

Breweries & Beers


  • Wedding Pale Ale
  • Rotbier
  • Schabrackentabier
  • Marzahner

Braumanufaktur Potsdam:

  • Potsdamer Stange
  • Maibock
  • Berliner Weisse


  • Berliner Art Double IPA
  • Berliner Nacht Imperial Stout
  • Berliner Framboise
  • Mein Helles

Flessa Bräu:

  • Weizen
  • Mandarina
  • Export
  • Shankbier
  • Pils

Flying Turtle:

  • Return of Pils
  • Kickstarter Pale Ale


  • Thirsty Lady
  • Pale Ale
  • Saisonniére

Hops & Barley:

  • Stout
  • Citra IPA
  • Comet Lager
  • Cider


  • Hell
  • Rot
  • Weizen
  • Maibock

Schoppe Bräu:

  • Black Flag Imperial Stout
  • Holy Shit Double IPA
  • Single Hop IPA


  • Szechuan Saison
  • Antwerpen Double IPA
  • Fest Pale Ale



Vote for your favourite beer at the festival

Vote for your favourite beer at the festival