Stone Brewing execs speak out on pending acquisition by Sapporo

Sapporo is set to close on its acquisition of Stone Brewing in August.

Reverberations from a nine-figure deal between two beer giants on opposite sides of the Pacific are being felt here in Richmond.

On Friday, Japanese brewing conglomerate Sapporo Holdings Ltd. announced that Sapporo USA is set to acquire California-based Stone Brewing Co. for around $168 million.

Stone will leave its mantle as the ninth-largest independent craft brewery in the U.S. with the deal, which is set to close in August.

In 2016, 20 years after its founding, Stone established its presence in Richmond with a 200,000-square-foot production facility in Fulton. The City of Richmond lured the San Diego-based brewery to town with the help of $25 million in grants and bonds to fund the facility, which Stone leases from the city’s economic development authority.

The deal with Sapporo comes about a year after Stone CEO Maria Stipp told BizSense that the brewery was looking to reset its brand, one that for years was associated with full-flavored IPAs and other heavier ales. In addition to more lagers and easier-drinking beers, Stone’s recently added a line of hard seltzers to its portfolio in an effort to expand its audience.

Stipp, who was CEO of Lagunitas Brewing Co. in 2017 when it was sold to Heineken, said discussions with Sapporo got underway a few months ago when the company approached Stone looking for places to brew its beer in the U.S. Sapporo’s best-known brews are its eponymous Premium and Black beers.

“(Sapporo) had done some visits to other breweries. We weren’t the first, I understand, that they went to see,” Stipp said in an interview Friday. “They were really, truly looking for brewing capacity in the U.S. that fit their standards, and we exceeded their standards. Then (the discussion) became, ‘What’s the best structure for us to work together?’”

Stone’s branding and logo will continue to adorn its Fulton facility.

Stone COO Sean Monahan said they anticipate the Richmond facility will be brewing all of the beers in Sapporo’s portfolio by the end of 2023.

“In terms of volume, that should bring another 200,000 barrels of production, more than doubling what we do here,” Monahan said. He added that they’ll likely add up to 30 new jobs to the Richmond roster, which currently totals about 75.

While Stone’s made a handful of upgrades to its Fulton facility over the years, Monahan said an additional $30 million to $50 million is likely to be invested in the facility. Stipp said the performance agreement Stone made with the city in 2015 remains valid.

It’s unclear whether the deal will affect the fate of the Intermediate Terminal building at 3101 E. Main St. The old warehouse was initially slated to be converted into a Stone World Bistro & Gardens, a brewpub concept that Stone has in California.

The ultimate fate of the riverfront Intermediate Terminal building remains unclear.

However, that project’s been on hold since 2018, when the 102-year-old building was initially found to be too structurally deficient to house the bistro. In 2020, the city commissioned a study that claimed the Intermediate Terminal building was actually capable of housing a restaurant.

Asked the latest regarding Stone’s bistro plans for Richmond, Monahan said the bistro was not in their immediate plans and pointed to a food trailer Stone recently began operating at the brewery as a food option.

In light of the sale to Sapporo, Stone co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner are leaving the company, where they’ve been serving as executive chairman and president, respectively.

Koch has been a longtime critic of big beer conglomerates, and in a post to Stone’s website last week, wrote that, “I’ve softened my rigidity around this in recent years.”

Sapporo is set to close on its acquisition of Stone Brewing in August.

Reverberations from a nine-figure deal between two beer giants on opposite sides of the Pacific are being felt here in Richmond.

On Friday, Japanese brewing conglomerate Sapporo Holdings Ltd. announced that Sapporo USA is set to acquire California-based Stone Brewing Co. for around $168 million.

Stone will leave its mantle as the ninth-largest independent craft brewery in the U.S. with the deal, which is set to close in August.

In 2016, 20 years after its founding, Stone established its presence in Richmond with a 200,000-square-foot production facility in Fulton. The City of Richmond lured the San Diego-based brewery to town with the help of $25 million in grants and bonds to fund the facility, which Stone leases from the city’s economic development authority.

The deal with Sapporo comes about a year after Stone CEO Maria Stipp told BizSense that the brewery was looking to reset its brand, one that for years was associated with full-flavored IPAs and other heavier ales. In addition to more lagers and easier-drinking beers, Stone’s recently added a line of hard seltzers to its portfolio in an effort to expand its audience.

Stipp, who was CEO of Lagunitas Brewing Co. in 2017 when it was sold to Heineken, said discussions with Sapporo got underway a few months ago when the company approached Stone looking for places to brew its beer in the U.S. Sapporo’s best-known brews are its eponymous Premium and Black beers.

“(Sapporo) had done some visits to other breweries. We weren’t the first, I understand, that they went to see,” Stipp said in an interview Friday. “They were really, truly looking for brewing capacity in the U.S. that fit their standards, and we exceeded their standards. Then (the discussion) became, ‘What’s the best structure for us to work together?’”

Stone’s branding and logo will continue to adorn its Fulton facility.

Stone COO Sean Monahan said they anticipate the Richmond facility will be brewing all of the beers in Sapporo’s portfolio by the end of 2023.

“In terms of volume, that should bring another 200,000 barrels of production, more than doubling what we do here,” Monahan said. He added that they’ll likely add up to 30 new jobs to the Richmond roster, which currently totals about 75.

While Stone’s made a handful of upgrades to its Fulton facility over the years, Monahan said an additional $30 million to $50 million is likely to be invested in the facility. Stipp said the performance agreement Stone made with the city in 2015 remains valid.

It’s unclear whether the deal will affect the fate of the Intermediate Terminal building at 3101 E. Main St. The old warehouse was initially slated to be converted into a Stone World Bistro & Gardens, a brewpub concept that Stone has in California.

The ultimate fate of the riverfront Intermediate Terminal building remains unclear.

However, that project’s been on hold since 2018, when the 102-year-old building was initially found to be too structurally deficient to house the bistro. In 2020, the city commissioned a study that claimed the Intermediate Terminal building was actually capable of housing a restaurant.

Asked the latest regarding Stone’s bistro plans for Richmond, Monahan said the bistro was not in their immediate plans and pointed to a food trailer Stone recently began operating at the brewery as a food option.

In light of the sale to Sapporo, Stone co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner are leaving the company, where they’ve been serving as executive chairman and president, respectively.

Koch has been a longtime critic of big beer conglomerates, and in a post to Stone’s website last week, wrote that, “I’ve softened my rigidity around this in recent years.”

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Jamie Ferguson
Jamie Ferguson
1 month ago

Greg Koch, “I will never sell out.” The same guy that was going to show the Germans how to make beer.

BOB JOHNSEN
BOB JOHNSEN
1 month ago
Reply to  Jamie Ferguson

“I’ve softened my rigidity around this in recent years.” I guess that means he was shown the money.

Fred Squire
Fred Squire
1 month ago
Reply to  BOB JOHNSEN

$168m will make almost anyone soft, and certainly abandon any hill they are willing to die on. Look at all the Hollywood types who were supposed to leave the country after Trump won.

Money speaks at the end of the day, plain and simple.

At the end of the day I don’t care at what this guy claims and backtracks on. I do care that it is one more example of the City doing a one sided deal and not being able to receive the benefits. Add this to Redskins training camp….

Stephen Weisensale
Stephen Weisensale
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred Squire

From the article…“In terms of volume, that should bring another 200,000 barrels of production, more than doubling what we do here,” Monahan said. He added that they’ll likely add up to 30 new jobs to the Richmond roster, which currently totals about 75.

While Stone’s made a handful of upgrades to its Fulton facility over the years, Monahan said an additional $30 million to $50 million is likely to be invested in the facility. Stipp said the performance agreement Stone made with the city in 2015 remains valid.”

It would appear the Richmond brewery will actually benefit from this sale.

Michael P Morgan-Dodson
Michael P Morgan-Dodson
1 month ago

Love to see a financial follow up. City promised 90 jobs and a certain amount of taxes. I don’t think we ever got to 90 brewery jobs and the 200 jobs at the bistro are NEVER coming. Probably one of the better econ deals city ever made but I wonder if it lived up to the press release from the EDA/City. And the agreement is for 25 years with a sale to a new owner clause. Of course it is still valid.

Last edited 1 month ago by Michael P Morgan-Dodson
Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
1 month ago

I knew that SOMETHING was “Wrong” when this new CEO said they were getting into Hard Seltzers.

I thought “they are damaging their brand for Light and Transient Causes”!!!

But, Greg has been through a LOT — Berlin marked the peak and then the troubles…

Dan Warner
Dan Warner
1 month ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

If you decide to ride a wave you have to be prepared for when it crashes. Or… only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.

For example: https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2021/04/07/us-craft-beer-production-experienced-its-first-modern-era-decline-in-2020-infographic/?sh=678551206f0e