Starting Feb. 13, the world will experience four months of silence from Greg Koch, the normally outspoken co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing Company.

“My email won’t reach me and I won’t be able to get it,” said Koch, discussing his plans for a mini-sabbatical. “I am going off the communications grid.”

The goal, he explained, was to recharge his creative batteries. After a full year of prep work, Koch and business partner Steve Wagner sold their first keg of Stone Pale Ale on July 23, 1996. It’s now the nation’s 10th largest brewery, and the biggest in San Diego County.

As their brewery grew, Koch and Wagner set a blistering pace. Since 2011, they’ve added more than 55,000 square feet to their Escondido production facility; harvested crops from their new organic farm; opened a brewery-restaurant in Liberty Station, a sister to Escondido’s World Bistro & Gardens; and welcomed travelers to a new restaurant-bar at the San Diego International Airport.

Last year, they also sold 212,000 barrels — or nearly 6.6 million gallons — of ale. Stone’s brewers made 74 different beers, from the strong Arrogant Bastard Ale to the Belgian-accented Cali-Belgique IPA.

Koch is also in demand as a speaker at beer and business conferences, and as a host at beer dinners. Some years, he estimates, Koch has spent 50 percent of his time on the road.

“It’s like there are lots of windows running on my computer, lots of tabs open,” he said. “Maybe it’s time to shut down the computer and hit the restart button.”

Early in 2013, Koch notified his staff that he planned to take off early in 2014.

“I wanted everyone to know there are no health problems, no mental problems,” he said. “This has been planned a long time.”

He’ll spend much of his four-month leave on the road, Koch said, visiting New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania and “as-yet undetermined parts of Southeast Asia. I’m open to suggestions.”

But only for the next few weeks. After that, only a handful of Stone insiders will know how to reach him.

“There is a ‘Bat Phone’ hotline for emergencies,” Koch said. “But only dire emergencies.”

Source: Union Tribune

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