My first face-to-face encounter with Stone Brewing Co. co-founder Greg Koch was a memorable one. It was 2003 and I was working at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper in upstate New York. One of my jobs was co-writing a beer column. It so happens that Stone Brewing, this in-your-face West Coast brewer, had just started distributing in New York state. Koch had rented a Ford Escape and was traveling New York spreading the Stone message. This was a time when West Coast IPAs were still making their way east. We agreed to meet up at MacGregor's, a terrific beer bar in Henrietta. The only thing I knew about Stone at the time was its signature beer Arrogant Bastard and the warning that appeared on the bottle: "This is an aggressive strong 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." Wow. Nothing like demeaning your audience. That was some heavy-handed marketing.
So this lanky dude with blond highlights in his hair, soul patch and designer eyeglasses walked up to me and introduced himself. The first question out of my mouth was "Are you really an arrogant bastard?" He laughed and responded: "That's Mr. Arrogant Bastard." Then he paused. "Yeah, but I have to admit I'm a fairly good-natured bastard at that." I instantly liked the guy and have happily watched as Stone grew and grew through the years.
So what prompted this trek down memory lane? Koch, co-founder Steve Wagner and Randy Clemens have a new book out The Craft of Stone Brewing Co. (Ten Speed Press, 208 pages, $25). I wasn't surprised by the subtitle: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance. The book just landed on my desk at the Akron Beacon Journal so I haven't gotten a chance to read through it yet. Sad to say that the lawn likely won't be mowed this weekend as I spend my free time soaking up the written Stone arrogance.