To me, “cult brand” just means
that you’re hardcore doing it the
way you believe in, and other people
are responding. It means that
you get known for the quality and
character of what you do—not
some ad campaign, or something
else that falsely infates it.
Beer Advocate named us the No. 1
All-Time Top Brewery on Planet
Earth in 2008. It was pretty fucking
nuts when that happened. What I
love most about that is that no one
person decided that. It was a
combination of all of the ratings
of all of their users.
In 2014, a year and a half before
we hired Dominic Engels as CEO,
I talked with Steve—he’s now our
chief cultural architect—and our
board and our executive team, and
said, “I’m feeling like my experiences are a little too limited for
where we are trying to take this
company.” We now have around
1,200 employees. Operating Stone
takes a diferent set of skills. Mine
were focused on growing the
company and less on internal
health, and we wanted to improve
the experience of our own team.
I was always pretty certain that I
wasn’t interested in private equity.
But VMG Partners had done tremendous research into craft beer and
into Stone. I could tell they weren’t
faking it. They really understood
craft beer, and made it clear that
they cared about the things we cared
about. In 2016, they invested
$90 million. A minority investment,
so Steve and I still maintain control.
So, even if they were jerks, I suppose
it could be OK. But I’m happy to say
that they’re the opposite.
Enter Night Pilsner happened
because Metallica decided that
they were interested in making a
beer, and Stone kept coming up
in their research. When they
reached out to us, I was skeptical.
Now, I’m like, “You should’ve
known. It’s Metallica. They take
things seriously.” They didn’t
want to just rubber-stamp their
name on something. They wanted
to be involved, and really understand
We’re two entities that came
from the fringes. In our early days,
what we did and what they did
To achieve popular success based
on that cult foundation is, for me,
kind of the holy grail. It’s the thing
I’m most proud of.
STONE IN LOVE
Greg Koch, who
Brewing in 1996 with
Steve Wagner. The
following year, the two
started selling the
Bastard Ale, which
helped change the
world of beer forever.