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25 years later, Stone Brewing finds a new way to provoke us

Buenavida Hard Seltzer is no joke

Well Stone the crows, it’s Buenavida hard seltzer!
Well Stone the crows, it’s Buenavida hard seltzer!

Just when I thought Stone Brewing had run out of surprises, the announcement reached my inbox: “Stone Brewing Announces Buenavida Hard Seltzer.” I looked at the date: April 1.

Haha, Stone, you got me, I thought.

Except it was no April Fools joke. Sure enough, last week, the beer company that taught a generation of American craft beer drinkers that “fizzy yellow beer is for wussies” released its first mixed twelve-packs of bottles filled with fruity hard seltzer: mango, watermelon & lime, black cherry, and mandarin orange. Less than a week before its 25th anniversary.

Place

Stone Brewing Co.

1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido

On July 26, 1996, aspiring rock musicians Steve Wagner and Greg Koch opened the doors of Stone Brewing on Mata Way in San Marcos (now home to Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey). Its first keg of beer, simply called Stone Pale Ale, was sold to one of the few San Diego brewing operations that’s been around longer than Stone: Pizza Port Brewing Company. A quarter century later, Stone has produced more than 325 distinct packaged beers, distributing to all 50 US states and Washington, D.C., plus 51 other nations. In total, the company tells me it has produced a total of 3,593,119 barrels, roughly the equivalent of 891 million pints. And counting.

In its first year in business, with only six employees, Stone produced an estimated 960 barrels in that single brewhouse. That space maxed out at 2500 barrels per year. In 2020, a company of 855 employees produced 347,000 barrels — enough to make it the United States’ 9th largest craft brewer by volume, and 18th largest beer company overall. With brewhouses in Escondido, Liberty Station, Napa California, and Richmond Virginia, Stone currently has the capacity to brew 505,000 barrels per year, with room at the Richmond facility to raise that number even higher.

In addition to taprooms in downtown, East Village, Oceanside, and San Diego airport, Stone operates a taproom in Pasadena. It briefly operated a taproom in Shanghai, China, and it launched a brewery in Berlin, Germany — making it the first American craft beer company to produce its beers in Europe.

Its top selling beer in 2020 is the same as its top seller of all time: Stone IPA, first introduced in August 1997. However, another beer that was arguably more impactful on American beer drinkers was first released less than three months later: Arrogant Bastard. Dubbed an American strong ale, the Bastard was full flavored and boldly hopped (for the time), and featured a label declaring, “You’re not worthy,” which effectively dared beer drinkers to change their expectations of what beer should taste like. The bracing beverage would convert an untold number of to the rising tide of craft beer (even if we were still calling it microbrew back then).

Which makes the arrival of Buenavida Hard Seltzer all the more stunning. Stone is far from the first beermaker to turn to hard seltzer — a brewing segment expected to see several billions of dollars in growth over the next five years. But Stone’s issuing of clear bottles filled with light, easy, low calorie refreshment offers the surest sign this beer reporter has seen that, yes, all this time, we were worthy, after all.

Stone Brewing will officially celebrate its 25th anniversary with events taking place at several of its Southern California locations from September 16 to 18. For more info, visit its website.

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Well Stone the crows, it’s Buenavida hard seltzer!
Well Stone the crows, it’s Buenavida hard seltzer!

Just when I thought Stone Brewing had run out of surprises, the announcement reached my inbox: “Stone Brewing Announces Buenavida Hard Seltzer.” I looked at the date: April 1.

Haha, Stone, you got me, I thought.

Except it was no April Fools joke. Sure enough, last week, the beer company that taught a generation of American craft beer drinkers that “fizzy yellow beer is for wussies” released its first mixed twelve-packs of bottles filled with fruity hard seltzer: mango, watermelon & lime, black cherry, and mandarin orange. Less than a week before its 25th anniversary.

Place

Stone Brewing Co.

1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido

On July 26, 1996, aspiring rock musicians Steve Wagner and Greg Koch opened the doors of Stone Brewing on Mata Way in San Marcos (now home to Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey). Its first keg of beer, simply called Stone Pale Ale, was sold to one of the few San Diego brewing operations that’s been around longer than Stone: Pizza Port Brewing Company. A quarter century later, Stone has produced more than 325 distinct packaged beers, distributing to all 50 US states and Washington, D.C., plus 51 other nations. In total, the company tells me it has produced a total of 3,593,119 barrels, roughly the equivalent of 891 million pints. And counting.

In its first year in business, with only six employees, Stone produced an estimated 960 barrels in that single brewhouse. That space maxed out at 2500 barrels per year. In 2020, a company of 855 employees produced 347,000 barrels — enough to make it the United States’ 9th largest craft brewer by volume, and 18th largest beer company overall. With brewhouses in Escondido, Liberty Station, Napa California, and Richmond Virginia, Stone currently has the capacity to brew 505,000 barrels per year, with room at the Richmond facility to raise that number even higher.

In addition to taprooms in downtown, East Village, Oceanside, and San Diego airport, Stone operates a taproom in Pasadena. It briefly operated a taproom in Shanghai, China, and it launched a brewery in Berlin, Germany — making it the first American craft beer company to produce its beers in Europe.

Its top selling beer in 2020 is the same as its top seller of all time: Stone IPA, first introduced in August 1997. However, another beer that was arguably more impactful on American beer drinkers was first released less than three months later: Arrogant Bastard. Dubbed an American strong ale, the Bastard was full flavored and boldly hopped (for the time), and featured a label declaring, “You’re not worthy,” which effectively dared beer drinkers to change their expectations of what beer should taste like. The bracing beverage would convert an untold number of to the rising tide of craft beer (even if we were still calling it microbrew back then).

Which makes the arrival of Buenavida Hard Seltzer all the more stunning. Stone is far from the first beermaker to turn to hard seltzer — a brewing segment expected to see several billions of dollars in growth over the next five years. But Stone’s issuing of clear bottles filled with light, easy, low calorie refreshment offers the surest sign this beer reporter has seen that, yes, all this time, we were worthy, after all.

Stone Brewing will officially celebrate its 25th anniversary with events taking place at several of its Southern California locations from September 16 to 18. For more info, visit its website.

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