Developer Wants to Bring Stone Brewing to Bethlehem

by theelvee_w2oe3m

The Morning Call has confirmed reports that Bethlehem developer Michael Perrucci is hoping to bring Stone Brewing Company to Bethlehem.  Stone put out a request for proposal in the winter and the proposal deadline just closed on March 15th.  Many southern states have also submitted proposals, however a Stone Brewing Company representative declined to confirm how many applications have been submitted.

Stone Brewing Company, based in Escondido, CA was ranked the 10th largest craft brewery in the United States last year, producing 213,000 barrels, or 6.6 million gallons, of beer in 2013.  The brewery’s current operation in California employs close to 900 people who work to create and distribute the brewery’s award-winning beer that currently reaches 40 states and seven countries.  The brewery complex currently sees 600,000 visitors a year. 

The new brewery would be a 130,000 square foot brewing facility at the former Bethlehem Steel site, expandable to 220,000 total square feet.  Also on-site would be a restaurant, shop, and bar, similar to the Stone World Bistro & Gardens at the Escondido facility.  The brewery’s request for proposal states the dining area would encompass 15,000-30,000 square feet, with an additional 6,000 square feet for kitchen area and a 1,600 square foot store, featuring one-off and vintage bottles, kegs, and growlers, as well as merchandise. 

The brewery itself would serve to become the hub of Stone’s eastern seaboard distribution as well as provide beer for overseas sales.  The initial brewhouse would make 120,000 barrels of beer are year, and eventually expand to nearly 500,000 barrels, with revenue from the eastern brewery alone exceeding $100 million by year four.  Stone would spend over $20 million in capital expenditures opening their new facility.

The bistro would serve food using locally grown and organic ingredients, feature beer and wine from all over the world (not just Stone’s offerings), and host beer university and beer pairing events.  Stone says they would search out opportunities for their east coast brewery to partner with universities in the area to host student internships, talent development programs, and lab & research programs.  They also note that they place “significant weighting on incentive/development packaged available,” making Bethlehem a prime candidate with its new CRIZ designation.

Stone has seen enormous growth since their inception in 1996.  On average, the company has seen 46% sales growth per year since opening and last year the San Diego Business Journal named it one of the 100 fastest-growing private companies for the 10th year in a row.  Last year Stone’s revenue topped out at $135 million.

Stone is just the latest brewery that has been looking east.  Huge new breweries for Sierra Nevada (CA), New Belgium (CO), and Oskar Blues (CO) are opening in Ashville, NC.  California’s Green Flash Brewery is currently constructing a massive new brewery in Virginia Beach.  If Stone opens in Bethlehem, it would be the second major brewery announced for the area, as Allentown recently closed a deal with Ruckus Brewing to take over and renovate the former Neuweiler Brewing property.

Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez, developer Michael Perrucci, and Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority executive director Tony Hanna did not respond to comment for this story.  John McGran, VP of Marketing for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, denied any knowledge of the project.

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