Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


Stone Brewing gears up to launch locally brewed Sapporo

Enter through the gargoyle guarding the entrance of Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, and one can see a smooth operation.

“It's one of the things that impressed Sapporo,” said Sean Monahan, chief operating officer for Stone and Sapporo Brewing.

Nearly 10 months after being acquired by Sapporo, the brewery is ready to start releasing locally brewed Sapporo beers to the U.S. market.


When the Japanese beer giant was looking for another U.S.-based brewery to brew its beer, it was looking for one that had the capacity to get the product on the market quickly. Monahan said Stone Brewing Company met that requirement.

“When Sapporo was looking for a partner, they were looking for someone that could expand and brew Sapporo, but also a brand that they could help further develop," he said. "And so they fully embrace what Stone is, and we continue to innovate into the future.”

While Stone had the capacity to start brewing Sapporo beer right away, Monahan said there was still a learning curve to get the recipe just right.

"We did our first big brew. And I'll tell you, it failed," he said. "Various lessons learned. It just didn't scale the way we thought it would, so we actually had to scrap that initial brew.”

Monahan said Sapporo’s core process of brewing beer was already similar to how Stone was brewing its beers. The main difference is the yeast.


“I think it's always underappreciated by many people ... how important the yeast is,” Monahan said.

Stone is using the same yeast used in Japan, but it still took several tries until it was able to release the first batches of locally brewed Sapporo beer. The beer is brewed exactly the same way and looks and tastes mostly the same — it tastes crispier, Monahan said, because it's fresher, being locally brewed.

But it will be a few more months before locally brewed Sapporo will be available on store shelves. However, locals can find it at each of Stone’s World Bistro & Gardens locations under the experimental lager labels.

Stone still needs to upgrade its facility to handle brewing both Sapporo and its own line of beers.

“We're investing about $20 million in capital to expand the Escondido brewery," Monahan said. "So while, yes, some of the equipment may be coming from overseas, but a lot of the construction and the labor is going to be right here in the San Diego market.”

That also means more jobs for the local economy. Stone is looking to hire more than 100 positions within the next six months.

The North County Focus newsletter is your bi-weekly guide to all the news coming from North County, plus a handpicked selection of events and trivia tidbits.