Regular readers of this blog will know I have a conflicted relationship with Stone Brewing. On the one hand I do take my hat off to them for being able to make a fine beer. On the other hand, I don’t like them consenting to extend best before dates for the Australian market to a time way beyond what founder Greg Koch will allow in their home market. I don’t like how they started up a crowdfunding option to raise money to build a new brewery and then claimed they weren’t doing that when they get hit with a storm of criticism even though their own press release said that was EXACTLY what they were doing.
So it should be no surprise that I’m conflicted about Koch’s video announcement that he’s suing MillerCoors. If you haven’t seen it, here it is.
For what it’s worth, I think Koch has a case. If I saw those cans on the shelves my first thought would be that it was a beer from Stone Brewing. No question about it. To that end, I agree with Koch – it seems a conscious decision to confuse the consumer into thinking it’s a Stone beer. Yeah, I know Keystone have used “stone” as an abbreviation of their brand name before and it features in the ads Koch shows here (and I think he has less of a case there) but the can branding seems designed to mislead while also giving the company a way out (“but we’ve used the word ‘stone’ before, your honour”).
I truly hope he’s successful in that lawsuit.
But this video is about more than just announcing the lawsuit. It’s also about the continued myth-making around Stone, that crap that – despite bringing in more than $130 million a year in revenue – they’re “the little guy”. Right at the start, Koch makes sure he knows they’re filing a lawsuit against “one of the largest brewing companies in the world”. Yet, it takes more than a minute for him to name the brewery in question – MillerCoors. He spends that first minute banging on about how awesome Stone is and having a dig at rivals who chose to sell their business.
Now, if this video is really about letting people know they’re taking MillerCoors to court, why not mention them by name right at the start? Talk about burying the lead.
Well, because it perpetuates the myth of Stone being the little guy going after a big fish. Yes, MillerCoors is a very large company, but Stone isn’t small either. Go take a look at your local Dan Murphy’s – could a little company really afford to send so much of its beer to the other side of the world? Nope.
Like BrewDog, Stone has the problem that they ARE the big guys in their market but still want to been seen as rebels rather than a big business. There shouldn’t be an automatic stigma about being successful and making a lot of money. But I get left with the impression that, for some, there is.
Koch says in the video “are we doing this for publicity? No. This is a weird way to get publicity.” The lawsuit might not be publicity-driven, but this video announcement definitely is. Despite what he says about just wanting to tell people the facts, half of this video is about reinforcing the myth that Stone as that rebellious little guy punching up.
None of which will stop me buying a Stone beer if I find a fresh one at my local Dan’s.
Categories: beer business