Consumer Nation

Stone Farking w00tstout: The ultimate beer geeks' brew

Drew Curtis, Will Wheaton, and Greg Koch
Source: Stone Brewing Co.

Greg Koch is a self-described "beer geek gone pro."

Koch, the co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing Co., started as a homebrewer and has never forgotten his roots, even while growing Stone into the 10th-largest craft brewer in the U.S., based on 2012 sales volume.

"Homebrewing has always been a fundamental element of the craft brewing culture," Koch recently told CNBC. "The beautiful thing about homebrewing is that there doesn't have to be a commercial objective. The brewers brew what they want, when they want."

These days a growing number of consumers are catching the homebrewing bug. The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) estimates that 1 million Americans brew beer at home at least once a year and with Mississippi passing a law allowing homebrewing last month, it's now legal in all 50 states for the first time since Prohibition.

Homebrewing is also helping to fuel the brewery boom in the U.S., which now has more than 2,500 breweries in operation. According to the AHA, 90 percent of professional brewers get their start homebrewing.

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In a newly released beer, Stone Brewing Co.'s Koch has returned to both his beer geek and homebrewing roots, creating Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout, with actor Wil Wheaton and creator Drew Curtis.

It's a fitting collaboration for the homebrewing Wheaton, who openly refers to himself as "self-described champion of geek culture."

Best known for his acting roles on shows like "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "The Big Bang Theory" as well as for being an avid tabletop and video gamer, Wheaton sees the term "geek" as something to be embraced.

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"Being a geek is not about what you love, it's about how you love it," he said. "We want to meet other people who love the thing the same way we do. We want to learn about and share our passion and our joy for it, we want to introduce other people to it."

Stone Brewing Co. W00tstout labels
Source: Stone Brewing Co.

For Wheaton, the passion found in brewing is a natural extension of the geek ethos.

"There's a wonderful thing in the craft brewing and homebrewing community, where you don't jealously guard information," Wheaton said. "You're not secretive about things, you get excited about sharing things with other people and rather than being snobbish and exclusive, we work very hard to be a positive, welcoming, inclusive community."

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Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout is the latest example of what is a regular part of the Stone Brewing Co. creative process. Since 2008 Stone Brewing Co. has released a series of collaborative beers. Each one has brought together three brewers from three different breweries in a no-rules brewing session designed to encourage those involved to stretch their creative boundaries.

Breweries of all sizes have participated in the series and homebrewers have frequently been worked into the mix, giving them exposure to a significantly wider audience than they would otherwise have.

For Koch, it's a chance to reconnect with the inner beer geek that set him on the path to co-founding Stone Brewing 17 years ago.

"It's fun to be able to tap into—pun intended—that creative process through the muse of someone who does it for no other reason than the joy of it," Koch said. "Just like us at Stone, homebrewers principally create their beers because they love beer, and they love sharing beer. The result is a fun creative experience."

—By CNBC's Tom Rotunno. Follow him on Twitter @TomRotunno.