beer business

The Stone Brewing screw-up


The site of the new Stone Brewery in Berlin. Which may or may not be partially funded by a dodgy crowdsourcing campaign.

Last week Stone Brewing announced plans to build a brewery and beer garden in Berlin. They also announced they would build a brewery in the eastern US, but that got downplayed – even in Stone’s own announcement.

As part of the venue, they launched a crowdfunding page at indiegogo (though the gentle souls at Stone prefer to call it ‘‘crowd participation’’ – because that doesn’t sound so much like they’ve put their hand out and asked for money).

This caused a bit of a stink in beer geek circles – to be fair it also caused some excitement as a number of geeks rushed to throw their money at Stone. I wasn’t one of them – instead I called bullshit on the whole endeavour.

Seems I mightn’t have been the only one, judging by this video  from Stone boss Greg Koch, which was released today.


(Some people have said they can’t see the video if they’re not already logged into Facebook. If that’s the case maybe this link to the Stone Facebook page, where the video lives,  might help)


In it he announces that the price of the special beers they are selling from the indiegogo page are being cut virtually in half – from $50 to $30. Those who bought at the full price will now get two bottles. In the video he says this is in response to people claiming $50 was too pricey even though they were making crazy weird beers (is it just me, or does Koch look a bit miffed when he says this? ‘‘Don’t you get how awesome my idea is? It has to be awesome – it’s MY idea’’).

I’d suggest that the price cut was because, at $50 a pop, the money hose was not flowing the way Stone wanted. So they hacked the price – and lets face it, a 40 per cent price cut is normally the sort of thing businesses do when shit ain’t selling.

In the video, Koch also says that, no, no, no, the money they were asking for wasn’t going to fund either of the breweries. ‘‘The main purpose of this campaign was to get some beers brewed,’’ he says. Really? Then how do you explain this blog on the Stone website, which says ‘‘we are at our financial limit and must put the Bistro & Gardens experiential components on hold…unless we get a little help.’’

[Note: the blog post referred to above has since been very conveniently removed]

Sorry, but the implication there is pretty clear, Koch. If you don’t raise more cash, the beer garden doesn’t happen. This idea that it was always just about pre-selling beer is clearly rubbish.

If you need more proof Koch is telling porkies, then check out this from the FAQs at the bottom of that blog post.

‘‘How much is $1 million really going to expedite the construction of the Bistros and Stores?

Significantly, but admittedly not as much as, say, $5 million. But we’re not against raising that much…or more. No matter what, the funds raised through this campaign will be funnelled directly to these projects and moving them up on the construction schedule.’’

The fundraiser is just about brewing beer? My arse, it is.

As more efforts to fix the negative response to the campaign, Koch also offers those who bought a beer a staff discount on Stone merchandise on the day they come in to pick up the beer. Okay, so they get to buy a T-shirt at cost, which leaves Stone not in the slightest bit out of pocket. So not really a very magnanimous gesture there, Mr Koch.

Oh yeah, in the video, Koch also says ‘‘if we sell a high enough threshold, then we’ve sold a brew’s worth and we’ll make it.’’ That sounds pretty clear – the beer only gets made if we get enough buyers. So I don’t know what happens to those people who bought in early if a particular beer ends up not being made.

To me, this whole crowdfunding thing has been one huge mess of bad publicity by Stone. Whoever thought it up should get their arses kicked.

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