“Now we’re getting into uncharted territory,” says CEO & Co-Founder of Stone Brewing Co., Greg Koch, in response to an open-ended question about the tremendous growth of the company since its opening in 1996. “I didn’t see this full vision at that time, but it’s fun to develop it as we go along.” And what a vision it is, even for a company that has historically been known for its aggressive approach to marketing and expansion. Over the past 36 hours, Stone has made several big announcements and updated some old ones. West Coaster was invited on a special press event to unveil the new plans.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station
Stone Liberty Station will be a 20,000 sq. ft., 400-seat brewery/restaurant complete with bocce courts and an outdoor movie area. The new brewery/restaurant will have a 10-barrel brewing system, provide 130 new jobs, and is expected to open in late spring 2012. 40 taps, emphasizing local brands, will complement a ~100 ct. bottle list. It will be “imaginatively landscaped,” according to Koch, with “some stone, some wall features, and we’re going to incorporate some bamboo – a nod to what we’ve done up in Escondido, but certainly not a copy by any stretch of the imagination.”
Stone Company Store South Park
We reported back in November about Stone South Park, and although it was originally intended to house a pilot brewing system, that will not be the case. “Due to a variety of challenges with the licensing in that spot, we took a different approach. We got a different kind of license that does not allow brewing but does allow us to actually open,” Koch says with a smirk. He added that beers from the Liberty Station brewhouse will be available in South Park. The storefront, located at 2215 30th Street, will open “in approximately thirty days” for growler fills, limited tastings and merchandise.
After a short walking tour of the Stone Liberty Station grounds, we hopped on a bus up to Stone Farms located off Protea Gardens Road in Escondido. Currently, only about five of the 18 acres are being used, and the biodynamic farm will not be fully operational for some time. Chickens on the farm are being raised to produce eggs on a small scale, and eventually the farm will be used to provide veggies for the Bistros, although utilizing local farmers will remain the main method of procuring fresh, local ingredients. Stone plans to hold special events and dinners on the property and Greg also emphasized the use of the space for educational purposes. Hops will be grown at the farm mainly for show, not for large-scale production (this isn’t the right climate anyways), although Greg did not rule out their use for small-batch, specialty, or cask beers.
We aren’t done yet. Back at Stone World Bistro & Gardens, more announcements:
– Three new electric vehicle charging stations coming in June. Company policy states that no employees, including Greg and Steve, could park in front after 10:30am, but Greg found a loophole with his Chevy Volt: “Now finally I’ll be able to park in front again because that’s where the charger is…but this wasn’t a personally-driven decision.”
– 672 bottles of Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter Aged in Bourbon Barrels to be released early June with a TBD lottery system. Read more on this beer from San Diego Beer Blog.
– Ground to break on kitchen expansion in roughly sixty days.
– Directly adjacent to the south: a 55,000 sq. ft.production facility. They’ll be moving all packaging, filtering and separation, bright beer storage, as well as adding a second brew line (not a full brewhouse, but a second lauter tun and kettle). Capacity will increase to 400,000-500,000 barrels a year (it’s currently ~115,000 barrels). Construction expected 2013, estimated initial investment: $6.5 million.
– In new buildings to the east across the street: more barrel-aging and a new sour program. “We are planning on developing this space so that we can have events in and around the barrels in the barrel room – really, honestly, taking a little bit of a nod from the wine industry that has spaces like that.”
– Stone Catering will be managed from these buildings to the east; this new division kicking off now.
– Pour It Black festival at Escondido location announced – August 13th – to feature black IPAs, cascadian parks, porters, stouts.
– Also to the east across the street: a 40-50 room boutique hotel; expected to be open before the summer of 2013. Greg joked, “Actually, it won’t be single, double occupancy, two queens or one king – it will be, ‘Do you want a 3-tap room or a 6-tap room?” Best question of the day goes to Jon of The Full Pint: “Room service growler fills?” Greg responds, “I like the way you think. But on the other hand, if you can’t manage to come across the street to get your own growler, maybe…” Jon: “…Maybe you got something going on…” Greg, after a laugh and a pause: “You’re definitely invited to the next one of these.”
– Total initial investment on all buildings to the east, including new offices: $11 million.
– Stone has projected profits from their Green Tea IPA Collaboration, and this week will donate $50,000 to Japan Tsunami Relief.
– Barrel-aged (w/ scotch whiskey barrels from Scotland) version of Highway 78 collaboration beer coming out this summer. Update: this beer should be out by the end of the year, not by summer. Thanks to Jeff at SanDiegoBeerBlog for clarification
– Belgo Anise Russian Imperial Stout to be released May 31st.