Great American Beer Festival Q&A: Stone Brewing Co.

The Great American Beer Festival, the nation's largest, staggers into the Colorado Convention Center this weekend. Last year, 46,000 attendees sampled nearly 3,000 beers, and this year's Fest is already sold out. Check Cafe Society through the week for survival tactics and beer recommendations from some of the breweries bringing their wares to Denver.

Stone Brewing Company: Escondido, California Q&A with CEO & Co-Founder Greg Koch

Stone is a beer nerd's brewery, with high ABV and higher IBUs in its most popular varieties. Creator of Arrogant Bastard Ale (with the tag line "You're Not Worthy"), Stone works hard to cultivate its craft-at-all-costs image. That hasn't stopped huge increases in production -- it will roll over 100,000 barrels out of the factory this year.

Westword:If people only try one of your beers, which should it be? Greg Koch: If people want to only try one of our beers, they should pick another time to try our beers. Tasting just one Stone brew would be missing the Stone Experience.

WW: Other than your own, what is your favorite beer? GK: Classic impossible question to answer. Happy to say that I have a deep and wide list of favorite beers. Now that we are so very far beyond the 99 percent commodity beer world of thirty years ago, there's no reason to boil it down to one favorite...or even a handful.

WW: What is the best thing about the Great American Beer Festival? GK: My answers above lead to the exact thing that's so great about the GABF: Variety! A chance to create a new (or longer) list of your favorite beers!

WW: What is the best way to avoid liver damage at this year's festival? GK: Avoid liver damage by not drinking beyond your limit. Since there's NO chance whatsoever you can make a dent in a selection of 1,900 beers, don't try. Just sample ones that are of interest, pace yourself, relax and have a good time. It's not a shopping spree. You don't get to take any of the beer home, just the memories...the less of the former you have, the more of the latter you'll retain!

WW: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be? GK: Based upon having an unlimited supply of fresh tasty beer, there would clearly be an access point somewhere from the rest of the world. I'd track that down and make a bargain with the guy stocking the one style of fresh beer on the island so that he'd bring me a variety. Probably by promising to share some of that beer. Sharing tasty beer always opens doors.

WW: What got you interested in craft beer? GK: It's the old boy meets beer, boy falls in love with beer story. In the late 1980s I discovered that there could actually be amazing beer. Before that, I did not know that the words "amazing" and "beer" could be used in the same sentence. Once I learned it was not only possible, but that there was a whole world out there of amazing beers, I fell in love.

WW: What prizes do you think you have a good chance of winning this year? GK: We got the award for best booth decoration last year. Maybe we'll repeat this year. As far as our beers go, while it's nice to have them in small sips, they tend to represent themselves best in a full glass at a time format.

WW: What should people know about your brewery? GK: Everything. We don't bother engaging in activities that aren't worth knowing about. Between our range of beer styles, our award-winning architecture, our acre of gardens, the fact that our brewery tour is one of the top tourist destinations in our region, our eclectic organic and free-range menu at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, our blogging and online videos (including the vids), the 32 beers on tap at our restaurant, our wide array of special events, the large set of solar panels on the roof of our brewery, our charitable activities, or our incredible team of fascinatingly diverse employees, it's hard to pick any one thing. We are that good.