Given Stone Brewing's longstanding presence in San Diego beer culture, every day that the company wasn't announcing expansions was probably more newsworthy than last Wednesday. That said, not many could have predicted the full scope of the plans: a new bistro in Liberty Station, launching a Stone Company Store in South Park, adding new brewing and barrel-aging capacity, adopting a local organic farm, initiating Stone catering services and planning the first Stone hotel.
No formal announcements about a Stone Charter School or the Stone Home For Wayward Brewers were made, but I wouldn't put anything past them now.
Stone's go-big-or-go-home approach to brewing is clearly mirrored in its designs for growth. Still, the announcements are arguably less audacious than ongoing efforts by Greg Koch, Stone Brewing CEO and public-relations firebrand, to launch the first American brewery on European soil. “I was really hoping to have euphemistically killed it and dragged it home to mount on a plaque and show everybody,” he said of his recent jaunt across the pond. “Not there yet unfortunately.”
Stone's expansion is exciting for the craft-brewing world, but as a consumer / narcissist, I was mostly concerned with how this could impact my ability to get Stone IPA when it (perpetually) suits me. Steve Wagner, Stone Brewing president and co-founder, kindly soothed my colic. “Liberty Station and the South Park store will represent a tiny percentage of our overall beer sales,” he said. “With the additional investment in brewery equipment we are making this year, we expect to have sufficient capacity.”
Somehow, Stone's $26-million plan to consume every possible revenue stream surrounding craft beer has inconceivably overshadowed recent updates to its beer roster. The end of May will bring the BELGO Anise Imperial Russian Stout, the brewer's most dessert-y beer to date. Look for the “Quingenti Millilitre” releases (featuring 500 milliliters of barrel-aged deliciousness) and Green Tea IPA collaboration (a benefit beer for Japan relief) to arrive later this year.