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Stone Brewing is expanding to Napa

Stone Brewery
Workers brew, bottle and pack craft beer at Stone Brewery on Oct. 13, 2015, in Escondido, Calif.
(Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

Napa is famous for superb Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon — and Stone ales? Escondido-based Stone Brewing plans to open a tap room, restaurant and small brewery in a Napa landmark. Built in 1877, the 10,000 square-foot Borreo Building offers views of the Napa River and downtown.

“The historic Borreo building is the perfect space for us to put down our roots in Napa,” Greg Koch, Stone chief executive and co-founder, said in a statement. “Not only is it literally made of stone, it’s one of downtown’s most iconic links to the 19th century and a landmark that’s been vacant for the past 15 years.”

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A local brewery gastropub — Napa Point — had announced similar plans for the building in 2013. But Napa Point shut down in 2014. In March 2015, authorities said, its former owner, Robert Dahl, gunned down an investor among the grapevines in his vineyard a few miles away and then killed himself.

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Koch, a regular visitor to Napa, first toured the property five years ago. After the Napa Point venture collapsed, Stone began preparing its bid.

This is the latest out-of-town venture for Stone, the county’s largest brewery and the nation’s 10th-largest craft brewery. Besides its headquarters plant and bistro in Escondido and a similar operation in San Diego’s Liberty Station, Stone operates stores and tasting rooms in Pasadena, San Diego, Oceanside and Richmond, Va.

Although a tasting room in San Diego’s South Park neighborhood closed in 2015, this year Stone plans to open to open breweries in Richmond and Berlin. The latter will be the first German brewery owned and operated by an American company.

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These satellite operations span the globe yet fit a pattern, said Vince Vasquez, who studies craft beer at National University’s System Institute for Policy Research.

“As Stone expands its footprint, it does so in a complementary way, identifying key locations,” said Vasquez, a senior policy researcher. “Berlin and Richmond, you see the opportunities for visitors coming through.

“I think the same thing is true of Napa. You have so many people coming through there.”

Napa is already home to several craft breweries, the most prominent being Napa Smith. None, though, are as large or well-known as Stone, which last year produced 325,645 barrels. (Each barrel is 31 gallons.)

Plans for Napa include an outdoor patio with communal seating and fire rings. An on-site brewer will make beer in a modest 10-barrel system; the restaurant and tap room will offer Stone beers made on the premises and in Escondido.

“We’ve tried a few times to make something happen there,” Koch said of Napa, “and are thrilled to finally see it come to fruition!”

peter.rowe@sduniontribune.com

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