A week before last Thursday's official grand opening celebration at Stone Brewing's new Company Store in Old Town Pasadena, the line to get growler fills wove through the Gold Line platform it sits on and out onto Raymond Ave. Stone employees were shocked at the response and kegs of the brewery's limited-edition IPA — for which the line was formed — drained with half the people still standing outside. The release was supposed to be part of a soft opening.
“We in no way expected the turnout that we got, since turnout to other Stone Company Store locations wasn't nearly as large as it was here in Pasadena,” the store's Facebook page said on Monday. But that's what happens when one of the biggest (and hoppiest) names in contemporary craft beer opens its first company store, not just outside of San Diego County, but also in L.A., where beer is finally finding its footing among the masses.
So what the hell is a “company store,” anyway? It's kind of hard to tell from the outside because there are taps, but it's not a bar. There are growler fills, but it's not a brewery. There are clothing and chotchkies available for purchase, but it's not a gift shop. You can rent kegs, but this isn't BevMo. And there is a large fridge of bombers and six-packs to go, but it's not a liquor store.
The best way to describe it is that it's like a wine-tasting room except all the pushy salespeople have been replaced with friendly beer geeks, snarky t-shirts (“Fizzy Yellow Beer is for Wussies”) and bars of organic soap made from signature brews. For anyone who has ever trekked down to the massive Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens complex in Escondido (where the commercial brewery is housed), the company stores are very similar in layout and product availability to the store on-site there.
As an amalgam of every way we usually obtain beer (and then some) all within feet of public transit, the concept will change the way Angelenos experience beer. But the location is also a huge shift for Stone. With its other three retail locations all within a short drive of the main brewery (and two more set to open down there soon), the Old Town spot is Stone's first foray outside of home turf. And last night's two-hour grand opening — which found a line of growler-toting beer lovers beginning to form an hour before doors were unlocked — proves that the market for San Diego beer outside of San Diego is growing with every new converted hophead.
Though already unofficially open for two weeks, last Thursday's event ushers in consistent store hours and a full 20-deep tap list. Nine beers will be permanent, the other 11 will rotate with a new special release each Friday.
What's on tap (as of last Thursday night):
Stone Pale Ale
Stone Levitation Ale
Stone Smoked Porter
Stone Cali-Belgique IPA
Stone Ruination IPA
Arrogant Bastard Ale
OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale
Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale
Double Dry Hopped Stone Ruination IPA
Stone Ruination IPA w/ Habanero Peppers
Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale w/ Espresso Beans
Stone 16th Anniversary IPA
Stone 16th Anniversary IPA w/ Green Tea Leaves
Ken Schmidt / Iron Fist / Stone Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout
Stone: Suitable for Cave Aging — An Imperial Smoked Porter Tribute to Danny Williams Aged in Bourbon Barrels
Stone Mixtape Ale vol. 2 — CH & HS's Blend
2012 Stone Imperial Russian Stout
2012 Double Bastard Ale
Stone Brewery Company Store: 220 S. Raymond, Ste. 103, Pasadena, (626) 440-7243.
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