Touring Stone Brewing Co. is different then the typical brewery tour, while most tours take visitors through a sectioned off area or watch from the other side of the glass, Stone takes groups directly in the midst of everything. Stone’s tour guides are passionate and knowledgeable about the Stone brand, and those who take the tour can expect some beer jokes as well as insight. Visitors can expect to see brewers perfecting all the components of that days batches of beer, as well as a whole lot of “beer magic” as tour guide and minister of Indoctrination, Ken Wright, puts it.
Greg Koch and Steve Wagner founded Stone Brewery in 1996. They originally opened their doors in San Marcos, but relocated to their current hilltop location in Escondido in Dec. 2005. The brewery in Escondido is massive and still in the process of expanding, as of now the property is around 55,000 square feel and features the separate brewing and bottling facilities, the Stone merchandise store, the restaurant and outdoor sprawling beer gardens. Stone continues to be one of the fastest growing beer brands in America; it is distributed across the U.S. and to some international locations.
For those looking to watch as their favorite brews are made, Stone offers both public and private tours. The public tour, which last 45 minutes, first they stop at a table that features the main ingredients that go into making beer; water, barley, yeast and hops. There the tour guides explain the process of making beer and a bit about how beer came up in history. Tour goers are invited to touch and smell the ingredients and ask any beer related questions. The tour then moves through the brew floor, which means groups can expect to experience all the sights, smells and sounds that go into making Stone beer. Tours follow the wonderful process of brewing, fermentation and the filtration.
Private tours are like an expanded version of the public tour. Private tours can be scheduled Monday through Friday. Private tours are a great option for beer enthusiast; they can choose to spend as much or as little time in each area of the brewery. Private tours also get a chance to view the bottling facilities where they can watch as Stone bottles and kegs are filled and packaged. Stone Brewing Co. produces around 3,000 kegs a day, which is about eight or nine large batches of beer. Those who chose to experience the private tour can expect to see those kegs and bottles being filled and prepared to send out to Stone’s warehouse.
At the end of either tour, those over the age of 21 are invited to taste their choice of four 4oz samples of that days selection of Stone beers. The price of the public tour is $3 for those over the age of 21 (with a valid ID) and includes a souvenir Stone tasting glass and the four 4oz beer samples. For anyone underage, or adults looking to take the tour but not drink, the price is $1. Stone donates $1 from each ticket purchased to local charities. Tickets can only be purchased at the Escondido Stone Company store on the day of the tour, those looking to take tours should plan to arrive early especially on weekends and holidays when tours sell out quickly. Public tours take place Mon. through Fri. at 12, 2, 4 and 6 P.M. and on weekends at 12, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 P.M.
Private tours can be booked through their website and are available Monday through Friday and the cost is $5 per person with a minimum charge of $50. Private tours can be set up for any number of people, up to 35.