The Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. (StudioSchulz.com )
At 16 years old, San Diego County's Stone Brewing Co. is ancient compared to the still-fledging L.A. craft beer scene. Along with Sierra Nevada Brewing and Lagunitas Brewing, Stone Brewing has become a nationally known California brand and is now the 11th largest craft brewery in America, according to 2011 year-end statistics from the Brewers Assn.
Yet Stone Brewing's next target for expansion isn't some far-flung locale. It's cozy Pasadena.
Perhaps as early as August, Pasadena will have its very own Stone Company Store on South Raymond Avenue, where, in addition to buying all things Stone, drinking-age patrons can sample beers and get glass jugs — called growlers — to go. But don't confuse it with a bar.
"It won't feel like a bar. It will feel like a store," said chief executive and co-founder Greg Koch. "While someone may just drop by for a pint — and that's entirely possible — you won't find groups of people hanging out like you would at a bar. The best analogy is just to think of this as a winery's tasting room."
Although Stone operates out of Escondido, Koch is familiar with the Pasadena area, as he lived in Los Angeles from 1984 to 1995. Acknowledging L.A.'s beer scene is younger than San Diego's, he said this city is quickly catching up. He points to the 2-year-old Eagle Rock Brewing, which Stone distributes, as an example.
"Eagle Rock is larger than we were at year two," Koch said. "It's a very different time. Today a small brewery opens with nothing more than a Facebook page and they will have a line of people out the door on opening day. I couldn't have dreamed of such an occurrence."