Stone Brewing doubling Richmond production capacity ahead of Sapporo beer launch

yearend booze stone brewing sapporo

Sapporo bought Stone Brewing Co. in a nine-figure deal that closed last summer. (BizSense file photo)

Fueled by its sale last year to Japanese beer giant Sapporo, Stone Brewing is in production expansion mode at its massive East End Richmond facility. 

Starting in late November, Stone will add three Sapporo beers to its repertoire as becomes its new parent company’s U.S. manufacturing base in addition to producing its own line of Stone brews.

In anticipation of that new capability, Sapporo is injecting $40 million to ramp up the Richmond facility’s production.

Sean Monahan, Stone’s chief operating officer, and Robert Kuntz, senior director of brewing operations, sat down with BizSense to discuss the brewery’s impending expansion.

IMG 6433

Sean Monahan (left) and Robert Kuntz said they’re ramping up operations to begin manufacturing Sapporo beers in late November. (Charlotte Matherly photo)

They said Stone Richmond is in the process of doubling its staff, installing new fermenters, adding a faster canning line and reworking its storage procedures ahead of the Sapporo launch.

The company is in the midst of hiring 54 new local positions of all levels in brewing, packaging, maintenance, quality and engineering and 24 positions in warehouse logistics. About 10 people run hospitality services and the tap room at 4300 Williamsburg Ave. Overall, Stone’s staff has doubled here from about 80 people to around 160. The average starting salary for these positions is approximately $57,000.

“We started hiring even though we haven’t started producing because it takes time to train people up, to teach them how to be a brewer, how to be a packaging tech, even though many come with experience,” Monahan said.

When Kuntz, formerly the head brewer, moved to his new position, Stone hired Matthew Poselwait in April to fill the role. Poselwait comes from a background in industrial brewing and distilling, having previously worked in quality control at Campari Group and Sazerac. 

In ramping up its facilities, Stone will receive 12 new 1,000-barrel fermenting tanks this week to be dropped into the Richmond facility’s rooftop cellar. Each tank can hold about 248,000 pints.

Stone aims to produce 156,000 barrels total this year in Richmond, a goal that increases dramatically next year to 320,000. By 2025, Kuntz and Monahan said, they hope to be making 360,000 barrels per year.

IMG 6423

The nearly 200,000-square-foot brewing facility is targeting 156,000 barrels of beer this year. (Charlotte Matherly photo)

Stone currently sells about 20-25 types of brews each year, averaging 12 to 14 per month with seasonal flavors. The start of Sapporo will add three more to the mix – the Sapporo premium, all-malt reserve and all-malt black. Next year, it’ll also relaunch Sapporo’s low-carb Sapporo Pure beer.

As part of the expansion, Stone is reorganizing its Richmond warehouse and storage facilities. It’s also adding a new small-batch brewing system and a new canning line, as well as retrofitting its current one to package more cans by the second.

The new line will produce 22-ounce cans of Sapporo and will operate 33 percent faster. 

Currently, the Richmond facility packages a full pallet’s worth of beer every four minutes – that’s 8,169 12-ounce cans or 6,167 16-ounce cans, Kuntz said. Around every 85 minutes, Stone packages enough beers to fill a semitruck: over 171,000 12-ounce cans or 129,000 16-ounce cans.

IMG 6421

There are 12 tank circular caps in Stone’s rooftop cellar, which will each soon have a fermenter dropped down into them via crane. (Charlotte Matherly photo)

Stone originated in Escondido, California, near San Diego and expanded to Richmond in 2015 with a $33 million incentive from the City of Richmond. The local facility ships to 36 states as far west as the Rocky Mountains and internationally to Europe. 

Part of that 2015 economic development deal included plans for Stone to convert the Intermediate Terminal building at 3101 E. Main St. into its Richmond World Bistro & Gardens. That side of the deal has yet to materialize after a disagreement between Stone, the city and others over the structural state of the building.  

As Sapporo ramps up U.S. production, $20 million in capital will go toward the Escondido hub and $40 million in capital will come to the Richmond facility.

“We’re kind of filling out [the Escondido location] as much as we can, but it was a traditional craft brewery. It was out of space,” Monahan said. “The real growth is in Richmond, here in RVA.”

stone2

Stone’s East End facility includes a tasting room. (BizSense file photo)

Sapporo Holdings Ltd. is financing the expansion, with about 35 percent going toward brewing, 35 percent toward packaging and the rest split up in infrastructure, utilities and installation costs.

The expansion will take several years to complete, with plans to continue through 2026. With Stone and Sapporo combined, the plan is to produce 700,000 barrels total at the Escondido and Richmond breweries by the end of next year, according to a Stone news release.

The Richmond brewery will make about 40 percent of Sapporo’s total product output this year, a goal that’ll increase to 50 percent in 2025.

“Sapporo, we think, is untapped. They’ve been very sushi restaurant-focused. You don’t find it a lot for off-premise grocery chains, and we think that’s a tremendous opportunity for them,” Monahan said. “We think we’ll exceed their growth projection, in which case then it’s like, ‘Go get those tanks, turn on the third shift and let’s keep growing.’”

Note: This story has been updated to include the average salary of all new hires with the Sapporo acquisition, which according to Stone is $57,000. The story originally reported the median salary of job postings that the company provided, but it later said not all jobs were posted yet so the median was incorrect.

yearend booze stone brewing sapporo

Sapporo bought Stone Brewing Co. in a nine-figure deal that closed last summer. (BizSense file photo)

Fueled by its sale last year to Japanese beer giant Sapporo, Stone Brewing is in production expansion mode at its massive East End Richmond facility. 

Starting in late November, Stone will add three Sapporo beers to its repertoire as becomes its new parent company’s U.S. manufacturing base in addition to producing its own line of Stone brews.

In anticipation of that new capability, Sapporo is injecting $40 million to ramp up the Richmond facility’s production.

Sean Monahan, Stone’s chief operating officer, and Robert Kuntz, senior director of brewing operations, sat down with BizSense to discuss the brewery’s impending expansion.

IMG 6433

Sean Monahan (left) and Robert Kuntz said they’re ramping up operations to begin manufacturing Sapporo beers in late November. (Charlotte Matherly photo)

They said Stone Richmond is in the process of doubling its staff, installing new fermenters, adding a faster canning line and reworking its storage procedures ahead of the Sapporo launch.

The company is in the midst of hiring 54 new local positions of all levels in brewing, packaging, maintenance, quality and engineering and 24 positions in warehouse logistics. About 10 people run hospitality services and the tap room at 4300 Williamsburg Ave. Overall, Stone’s staff has doubled here from about 80 people to around 160. The average starting salary for these positions is approximately $57,000.

“We started hiring even though we haven’t started producing because it takes time to train people up, to teach them how to be a brewer, how to be a packaging tech, even though many come with experience,” Monahan said.

When Kuntz, formerly the head brewer, moved to his new position, Stone hired Matthew Poselwait in April to fill the role. Poselwait comes from a background in industrial brewing and distilling, having previously worked in quality control at Campari Group and Sazerac. 

In ramping up its facilities, Stone will receive 12 new 1,000-barrel fermenting tanks this week to be dropped into the Richmond facility’s rooftop cellar. Each tank can hold about 248,000 pints.

Stone aims to produce 156,000 barrels total this year in Richmond, a goal that increases dramatically next year to 320,000. By 2025, Kuntz and Monahan said, they hope to be making 360,000 barrels per year.

IMG 6423

The nearly 200,000-square-foot brewing facility is targeting 156,000 barrels of beer this year. (Charlotte Matherly photo)

Stone currently sells about 20-25 types of brews each year, averaging 12 to 14 per month with seasonal flavors. The start of Sapporo will add three more to the mix – the Sapporo premium, all-malt reserve and all-malt black. Next year, it’ll also relaunch Sapporo’s low-carb Sapporo Pure beer.

As part of the expansion, Stone is reorganizing its Richmond warehouse and storage facilities. It’s also adding a new small-batch brewing system and a new canning line, as well as retrofitting its current one to package more cans by the second.

The new line will produce 22-ounce cans of Sapporo and will operate 33 percent faster. 

Currently, the Richmond facility packages a full pallet’s worth of beer every four minutes – that’s 8,169 12-ounce cans or 6,167 16-ounce cans, Kuntz said. Around every 85 minutes, Stone packages enough beers to fill a semitruck: over 171,000 12-ounce cans or 129,000 16-ounce cans.

IMG 6421

There are 12 tank circular caps in Stone’s rooftop cellar, which will each soon have a fermenter dropped down into them via crane. (Charlotte Matherly photo)

Stone originated in Escondido, California, near San Diego and expanded to Richmond in 2015 with a $33 million incentive from the City of Richmond. The local facility ships to 36 states as far west as the Rocky Mountains and internationally to Europe. 

Part of that 2015 economic development deal included plans for Stone to convert the Intermediate Terminal building at 3101 E. Main St. into its Richmond World Bistro & Gardens. That side of the deal has yet to materialize after a disagreement between Stone, the city and others over the structural state of the building.  

As Sapporo ramps up U.S. production, $20 million in capital will go toward the Escondido hub and $40 million in capital will come to the Richmond facility.

“We’re kind of filling out [the Escondido location] as much as we can, but it was a traditional craft brewery. It was out of space,” Monahan said. “The real growth is in Richmond, here in RVA.”

stone2

Stone’s East End facility includes a tasting room. (BizSense file photo)

Sapporo Holdings Ltd. is financing the expansion, with about 35 percent going toward brewing, 35 percent toward packaging and the rest split up in infrastructure, utilities and installation costs.

The expansion will take several years to complete, with plans to continue through 2026. With Stone and Sapporo combined, the plan is to produce 700,000 barrels total at the Escondido and Richmond breweries by the end of next year, according to a Stone news release.

The Richmond brewery will make about 40 percent of Sapporo’s total product output this year, a goal that’ll increase to 50 percent in 2025.

“Sapporo, we think, is untapped. They’ve been very sushi restaurant-focused. You don’t find it a lot for off-premise grocery chains, and we think that’s a tremendous opportunity for them,” Monahan said. “We think we’ll exceed their growth projection, in which case then it’s like, ‘Go get those tanks, turn on the third shift and let’s keep growing.’”

Note: This story has been updated to include the average salary of all new hires with the Sapporo acquisition, which according to Stone is $57,000. The story originally reported the median salary of job postings that the company provided, but it later said not all jobs were posted yet so the median was incorrect.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
9 months ago

“Rooftop cellar” ? I thought cellars were in basements?!!

David Adler
David Adler
9 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Ditto

William Willis
William Willis
9 months ago

I wish Stone and now Sapporo would keep their original plan and promise to Richmond to build the world bristo and beer gardens on Wharf St.

Stephen Weisensale
Stephen Weisensale
9 months ago
Reply to  William Willis

Given the expansion plans this may actually more likely now than when Stone was independent.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
9 months ago
Reply to  William Willis

I wish that would happen as well, but even if that does not get built I would still count the attraction of the brewery as a positive for the City.

Justin W Ranson
Justin W Ranson
9 months ago
Reply to  William Willis

By all means, but lets not pretend the terminal Building is appropriate for the Richmond World Bistro & Gardens. they should level that eyesore and build a facility.


Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
9 months ago
Reply to  William Willis

The 25-year lease agreement between the EDA and Stone will probably expire before beer garden is ever built. Hell, we might be on Mars before it gets under construction.

Last edited 9 months ago by Michael Morgan-Dodson
Tyler Benson
Tyler Benson
9 months ago

Median income of $45,000 is pretty pitiful. Stone should be embarrassed advertising that.

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
9 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Benson

It does seem low and not sure of the benefits (paid leave and all) but if you divide it out 50/52 weeks and 5 days at 8 hrs the median is between $22 and $25 a hour. Well above the median income for a single person and close to the city’s median for all households.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
9 months ago

This is good news for the City, but I wouldn’t count on the beer garden. I have a restaurant client that has told me that cocktails are in now at the expense of beer.

Bernie McAskey
Bernie McAskey
9 months ago

I thought Sapporo was a Japanese beer…..is it now being brewed in Richmond?

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Bernie McAskey

Just like Stone and Sierra Nevada are California beers…

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago

Sure, I’d love it if the new owners would meet their commitment to build the tourist destination, but after what happened to Stone in Berlin, I can understand why they want to pull in their horns.

But really people, this is ALL positive!!! What is not to like? More beer stuff for city hall to tax, more good paying jobs in the city, and all the follow on revenue that comes with production and salaries.

I’m sure the Rocketts Landing people are happy.

Don Anderson
Don Anderson
9 months ago

May their efforts come to naught — I and many other beer drinkers I know will never touch anything by Sapporo or Stone ever again, after what they did to Anchor.