Do it the right way

“Do you like being lied to?” No hands went up. “Are you sure?” This is how Greg Koch, CEO & Founder of Stone Brewing Company, opened his talk about innovation this morning. He went on to talk about the moment, at a dive bar in LA back in the late ’80s, when he realized that he’d been lied to: that the fizzy, yellow stuff couldn’t be considered beer because he’d finally tasted something real (and he’s a Metallica fan, who knew?!).

Greg 5Greg went on to talk about starting Stone, the months of more red in the ledger than black. But you know what? He didn’t sell out – he didn’t decide to just make something that fit the mold, just to make money. He stuck with what he knew was the right way for him. To make a great tasting beer. And he was right – Stone Brewing is the 10th largest craft brewery in the nation, the only craft brewery with consistent, double-digit growth every single year since they opened.

When the only distributor in San Diego that had initially agreed to add Stone to their book eventually called, after months of putting them off, and politely declined, how did he keep going? I asked him how he got through those months of “bleeding money”, as he put it. He simply said, “White knuckles”. No magic wand, no fairy godmother – just good old-fashioned determination. The stuff entrepreneurs are made of, whether they brew beer or distill spirits.

You’re probably thinking, “Wait – isn’t this a craft liquor site? What’s Stone got to do with it?” Greg not only successfully brews a damn good beer (with no plans to get into distilling – sigh), I think his story is a great example of doing what you love, and sticking to what you know is right. Which is the story of craft liquor – people that pour their hearts and souls into these spirits, staying true to what they love.

For the record, when he’s not drinking beer (maybe 2 out of 100 times), Greg enjoys a single malt Scotch – I think he just hasn’t met the right craft liquor yet.

Greg 1

About Jeanne Runkle

Jeanne Runkle currently lives in San Diego, and is a certified bartender and craft liquor expert. Her specialty is the brown stuff, whether it's bourbon, rye or good old American whiskey. She can sometimes be found stalking the aisles of a liquor store near you, answering your random whiskey questions.


  1. Great story, nice photos too 😉

  2. It’s great to hear that Greg’s company values are aligned with his own. I’m glad he did things ‘the right way” and had confidence Stone would find customers who would appreciate what they were offering.

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