With its long-planned beer garden in limbo, Stone Brewing Co. is kicking off a nearly $3 million expansion of its Fulton production facility.
Last week the San Diego-based brewery began installing four new 1,000-barrel tanks in its Richmond facility at 4300 Williamsburg Ave.
Stone uses the Richmond plant to brew and ship beer as far west as the Rocky Mountains, as well as into parts of Europe. With the new hardware, Stone COO Sean Monahan said, it can now brew up to 200,000 barrels of beer annually, up from its previous capacity of 150,000 barrels.
Monahan said the company felt confident investing around $2.7 million into the expansion due to rebounding sales after two years in the pandemic.
“I’m not sure COVID will ever be done, but at least we’re feeling that bars and restaurants are stabilizing. We’re feeling more comfortable and feeling more bullish,” Monahan said.
“We’re on track to hit our (first-quarter sales) plan, which we thought was pretty aggressive, and it’s been supported by normal packaged beer growth as well as on draft on-premise (sales) coming back.”
In addition to the production tanks, Stone is also installing a pilot 10-barrel brewing system for Richmond, which Monahan said will be used to experiment with new beers.
“It’ll allow us to brew some beers that are only available in Richmond,” Monahan said, adding that it should be up and running next month.
Stone completed a similar expansion in 2017. In the years since, the brewery’s appointed a new CEO in Maria Stipp, who’s set out to revamp the brewery’s brand, namely through new products like a line of hard seltzers and more non-IPA beers.
Monahan said Stone is considering adding even more non-beer products to its lineup.
“We’re looking at ready-to-drink cocktails,” Monahan said. “And the biggest growth area in those is margaritas.”
The pilot brewing system came over to Richmond from Stone’s World Bistro & Gardens location in Napa, California. Stone closed the Napa bistro last fall amid a legal spat with its former landlord, per a San Francisco Chronicle report. Stone also punted one of its bistro concepts in 2019 when it sold its Berlin bistro to Brewdog, a publicly traded brewery from Scotland.
A Richmond bistro was part of the 2015 incentive-laden deal that brought Stone to the city. However, 2022 marks four years since plans for it have fallen into uncertainty.
The initial plan was to convert the former Intermediate Terminal warehouse at 3101 E. Main St. into a bistro, but since 2018 there’s been a back-and-forth on whether the 102-year-old building could support an adaptive reuse. Most recently, in early 2020, a study commissioned by the city said the building could support a restaurant.
Stone has repeatedly said it remains committed to bringing a bistro to Richmond, and while there’s no clear timetable, Monahan said they remain in discussions with the city and its economic development authority.
“For what we envision, the current terminal building needs a lot of work. It’s not viable in its current structure,” Monahan said. “The next steps are really with the city and waiting for the EDA. We’ve made our thoughts clear and we’ve got to decide what the best path forward is.”
In the meantime, Stone’s set up a new, albeit smaller, food option at its Richmond facility.
Monahan said in the winter they debuted a full-time food trailer that’s set up outside the brewery. The trailer serves tacos and other beer-friendly fare.
“It’s been a long time waiting to do something food-wise, so we thought we’d just step forward with this,” Monahan said.