|Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries|
The opening of a new brewery is typically shrouded in mystery, with little known about the beer or the people behind it. But when California-based Stone Brewing opens their East Coast production facility in Richmond’s Fulton neighborhood, they bring with them a 20-year reputation and months of participation in the Richmond community.
Nicole Mandala, brewing supervisor at Stone in Richmond, was one of eight female presenters at A Celebration of Women in Craft Beer at Strangeways Brewing on February 14. “We feel really lucky at Stone to be amongst such an awesome group of local breweries,” said Mandala. “The absolute best thing about working in the beer industry – other than the beer, of course – is the people… We just can’t wait to start brewing and to share our space with all of you.”
Stone’s history confirms that attitude. To get their beers to market in the early days of craft brewing, Stone started their own distributing company. In The Craft of Stone Brewing Co., co-founder Greg Koch wrote, “You certainly wouldn’t see a Toyota dealership sprinkled with Volkswagens and Chevys. But I figure all us ‘little guys’ are in the craft beer business together, and I feel that creates a unique sense of community – maybe even a touch of responsibility.”
More recently, Koch said in the San Diego Tribune regarding craft brewery sales to big beer, “We like to win, however, we don’t knock down the other guy to do it. As we strive for our personal best, we feel morally obligated to be true to the craft beer ethos of camaraderie and standards we’ve set up for ourselves during the past 20 years.”
Fearful I was seeing this popular brewery through rose-colored, PR-tinted glasses, I reached out to local breweries for input. “(Stone has) been great about outreach with the local brewing community,” said Eric McKay, co-founder of Richmond’s Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. “They have joined Richmond Breweries United and the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, visited a number of local breweries and demonstrated the spirit of collaboration.”
Speaking of collaborations: “We have been amazed by the Richmond breweries and would love to brew with them!” said Peter Wiens, director of Stone’s East Coast brewing operations.
In addition, Wiens said, Stone Richmond will share resources with local brewers, assisting with raw materials and quality assurance. “If there is a QA procedure that we run that they don’t have access to, we will run it for them.”
The brewery has reached out to the greater community as well, raising over $8,000 for local organizations.
“We have also established a neighborhood Advisory Council that meets monthly to discuss how we can collaborate to bring needed improvements and resources to the Greater Fulton neighborhood,” said Juliellen Sarver, community relations manager.
Of course, this is all behind the scenes. Also of interest are Stone’s beers and Richmond tasting room.
On March 2, part one of the Stone project will go live: Stone Company Store – Richmond, a tasting room with adjacent beer garden and retail space for Stone merchandise. The store staged a soft opening February 19-21. The opening was initially intended for family and friends but, after word leaked out, Stone welcomed the general public with open arms.
The space will serve California-brewed Stone beers initially, including tastings, glasses, growlers and packaged beer. All beers come with Stone’s reputation for quality – hoppy and big. Service will begin with core beers (one gluten reduced and one sessionable), Mutt Brown, Arrogant Bastard Bourbon Barrel, 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, Ruination 2.0 DIPA and many more.
The Stone Richmond brewing team expects to begin brewing on their 250-bbl system by late April or early May, releasing their first brew in June or July. Spring will bring a grand opening celebration, with full brewing and tours anticipated by the end of July. The 600,000-barrel annual brewing capacity will top that of the West Coast facility in Escondido, California.
The Stone Company Store is located at 4300 Williamsburg Ave. Regular hours of the store will be Wednesdays and Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, an expansive restaurant, is expected to open at the Intermediate Terminal building in 2018.
Stone Brewing, welcome to Richmond. As Hardywood’s McKay said, “We’re looking forward to their opening and believe they’ll help build momentum behind Virginia becoming the craft beer mecca of the east.”
But one word of caution. On April 1, don’t believe anything they tell you!
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