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Stone Brewing picks POM Wonderful president as its new CEO

Stone Brewing’s new CEO, Dominic Engels, knows his beverages — or at least his pomegranate juice.

Engels, the president of POM Wonderful, will succeed the Escondido brewery’s founding CEO, Greg Koch, Stone confirmed Wednesday. He may be a craft beer rookie, but Stone co-founder and president Steve Wagner insisted that Engels is ideal for the job.

“We interviewed a lot of talented people who were interested in this role,” Wagner said in a statement released by Stone. “I was personally impressed with Dominic’s accomplishments and we connected right off the bat.

“He has a great skill set for the role and he is by far the best ‘cultural fit’ of anyone we talked to.”

Engels starts his new job Tuesday.

A graduate of Dartmouth College and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Engels speaks German — a valuable asset at Stone, which will officially open its Berlin brewery and bistro Sept. 14 — and has worked for companies focused on golf (Tommy Armour), clothing (The Gap) and food (The Wonderful Co.).

From 2011 through 2015, he lived in Belgium while overseeing sales, marketing and operations for Wonderful pistachios and almonds, plus POM Wonderful’s pomegranate juice business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He also led the European division of another Wonderful product, Fiji Water.

Since June 2015, he’s been based in Los Angeles as president of POM Wonderful.

Engels is married and the father of three sons, ages 7, 11 and 13.

“Dominic’s experience guiding companies through periods of growth, on a global scale, have us really excited about the future of Stone,” Koch said.

While Wagner retains the brewery’s presidency, Koch will assume the executive chairman post.

In September 2015, when Koch announced he would step down as CEO, he noted that Stone had changed dramatically since he and Wagner founded it in 1996. Then, it was a tiny start-up in a garage-like space in San Marcos.

Now, Stone is the ninth largest craft brewery in the U.S., producing 325,645 barrels of beer in 2015. (One barrel is 31 gallons.) The brewery also operates restaurants at the Escondido headquarters and its Liberty Station satellite; a chain of tasting rooms, extending from Napa to Pasadena and San Diego International Airport; and the Berlin complex. A brewery, bistro and store in Richmond, Va., are set to open next March.

“The skill sets needed for this position,” Koch said last year, “have changed.”

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