Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Many brewery tasting room visitors will recognize this scene. A placid space filled with craft beer fanatics and newcomers alike. Pleasant conversations between both factions over a few brews. Sometimes, the brewhouse staff who created them get in on the chitchat, talking about the beer’s make-up or offering up interesting stories about how it came to be, how they named it, or any other fun topic.
A party bus overflowing with sloshed partyers pulls up and dumps out right at the front door. Next thing you know, a leisurely, civilized experience is reduced into an unmanageable clusterf*** brought on by drunks who cram in, push, shove, stumble, holler, and generally wreck everything for a half-hour, before crookedly moseying out, taking their shit show to the next unsuspecting tasting room.
This phenomenon has been a big concern for many local breweries with tasting rooms. On one hand, they appreciate people wanting to visit and the fact that touring companies that do right by them and their patrons exist to bring business in. On the other hand, they despise the companies that break all the rules — don’t call ahead, promise things they can’t deliver (free beer, a tour, etc.), show up at or after closing time, fail to monitor their patrons’ sobriety level to keep it at a socially acceptable level.
One company, the county’s largest, is completely fed up. Starting today, May 1, Stone Brewing Co. will no longer allow any unregistered tour companies, party buses, or barge limousines on their premises.
CEO Greg Koch acknowledges there are good companies out there, citing BrewHop and Brewery Tours of San Diego as two viable service providers, and they will still be allowed to bring their clients in. It’s the companies that load tourers up with a complimentary, in-vehicle bottle of vodka, don’t control their unruly clientele, and fail to work within the regulatory framework of the breweries that Stone is looking to shut the door on.
It will be extremely interesting to see if this starts a trend. Certainly, having a company as big as Stone institute such a policy gives smaller companies that felt too minuscule to have much control over the situation a model to follow.