San Diego-based Sapporo-Stone Brewing has nearly completed the first phase of expanding its brewery in Escondido, Calif.

The $20 million investment in the facility is one of two significant investments for growth, with $40 million invested in the company's Richmond, Va. operation. These investments will result in the doubling of the company's capacity to about 700,000 barrels a year across its bi-coastal breweries. The brewing of Sapporo beers in Escondido and Richmond is now underway.

Stone Brewing, Southern California's largest craft brewery, was acquired by Sapporo U.S.A. in 2022. The goal was to transition from an importer to a U.S. brewer, ultimately brewing, selling and marketing all of Sapporo's beers for the U.S. market locally. Richmond's expansion will be unveiled this fall. By late summer, all production of Sapporo beers will have moved from Canada and Asia to the U.S.

Sapporo-Stone Brewing is now a combined team of nearly 850 employees, with about 600 based in San Diego County. In support of its expansion project, the company added 125 jobs locally and another 75 outside of San Diego County. More than 150 team members have been promoted or moved into new or expanded roles since the acquisition.

"Operationally, this acquisition looks a lot like a merger," says Zach Keeling, Sapporo-Stone Brewing Interim CEO. "Our two companies are now fully integrated – Innovating, brewing, selling, marketing and operating as a single, combined business. The Sapporo and Stone Brewing brands will maintain their individual identities, but we are Sapporo-Stone in name, operations and culture."

The Escondido expansion project includes additional tanks and packaging lines to increase capacity and efficiency. On the West Coast, Sapporo-Stone now operates out of its two Escondido brewing and packaging buildings and a distribution warehouse with offices also in Escondido. It occupies additional warehouse space in San Marcos, Calif. and Downey, Calif. The company operates two Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens and five Stone Brewing Tap Rooms. On the East Coast, Sapporo-Stone operates another brewery, an off-site warehouse, and a Stone Brewing Tap Room all in Richmond. 

Now the nation's 12th largest brewery by volume – according to the Brewers Association – Sapporo-Stone Brewing aims for a Top 10 ranking. In both the Import and Craft categories, Sapporo and Stone are gaining share over the last year. Citing data from NielsenIQ, Sapporo reports it is the No. 1 Asian beer brand in the U.S., with sales up +13.1%, nearly double the growth of the Import category, +6.7%. Most of this growth is attributed to its flagship Sapporo Premium. Stone's best sellers include the Stone Delicious IPA family of beers, Stone IPA and Stone Buenaveza Salt & Lime Lager. These Stone core brands are also growing, up 13.2%.

"Stone Brewing is among the world's most recognizable and celebrated craft breweries,” says Hiro Kitaoka, Sapporo-Stone Brewing Chairman. “We admire the team's innovative spirit, passion and world-class brewing expertise. We are proud to continue the legacy of Stone and honored to have this full team's commitment to the Sapporo brand. We are stronger together, and proud to be a growing San Diego business."