ESCONDIDO – Stone Brewing, the largest brewery in Southern California, announced to its staff last week that its CEO, Dominic Engels, has resigned.
The news was first reported last Tuesday by Brewbound, a beer industry trade publication, after they obtained an internal letter to staff from Co-Founder Steve Wagner.
Wagner, who will be stepping in as interim CEO, confirmed Engels’ resignation in an emailed statement to The Coast News last Thursday:
“Dominic Engels has resigned from his role of CEO with the company and I have stepped into the role of Interim-CEO. Greg Koch will remain the Executive Chairman.
We will be working to find the right person to lead the company’s advancements and growth. We wish Dominic well and thank him for all that he’s contributed to Stone.
In this unprecedented environment we’re operating in, both Greg and I believe in our company’s unique position in the world, and that we are poised to come to the other side of this pandemic as a healthy business.”
Wagner also said that Greg Koch, also a co-founder, will stay on as executive chairman of the board, but he did not offer an explanation for Engels’ sudden resignation.
Engels became Stone’s chief executive in Sept. of 2016, replacing Koch who had announced that he was stepping down as CEO a year earlier. Before that, Engels worked at POM Wonderful for 11 years and was president of the company before joining Stone.
The news comes after a challenging few months for the Escondido-based brewery, who back in June, was criticized by former employees who said that Stone mishandled company layoffs amid the COVID-19 crisis when they allegedly refused to hire their employees back once they reopened.
More recently, Stone came under fire in the beer community a few weeks ago when it was revealed that they had entered into a trademark dispute with a small 3bbl Kentucky brewery called Sawstone Brewing Co.
The trademark dispute garnered nationwide attention when Sawstone set up a GoFundMe, which has already raised almost $15,000 for legal fees.
Stone was criticized by many in the beer community who called the claim against Sawstone hypocritical as Stone prides itself on being the “antithesis to ‘Big Beer.’” However, Stone maintains that they were the subject of a “smear campaign.”
Stone is the ninth-largest craft brewery in the nation by volume and has two World Bistro & Gardens locations, including one in Escondido, as well as several taprooms in San Diego County.