“Firestone Walker has been impacted by the COVID-19 event like many other breweries,” chief sales officer David Macon said via email. “The loss of the on-premise entirely in our eastern markets has left us having to right-size our sales efforts to match the opportunity.”
The Paso Robles, California-based brewery is pulling out of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut, where its offerings were distributed by Sheehan Family Companies subsidiaries Craft Brewers Guild, Seaboard Products and L Knife & Son in Massachusetts, Craft New Hampshire and Craft Connecticut.
“We had great difficulty ensuring that we could ship enough beer to keep it fresh in those states,” Macon wrote. “We had already stopped shipping to Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island two years ago and now complete this transition.”
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., Firestone Walker had been eliminating positions in New England through attrition.
All nine employees worked in the brewery’s sales and marketing departments and “remain on partial furlough until they can find positions elsewhere,” Macon said.
“We are also working diligently to hopefully redeploy some of these folks to the west,” he added.
Firestone Walker’s remaining East Coast footprint includes New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Washington, D.C.
In February, Macon estimated that the brewery would sell about 400,000 case equivalents, with focus areas in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The company’s 805 Blonde Ale, the ninth best-selling craft beer in off-premise retailers in 2019 according to market research firm IRI, is not sold in markets east of Chicago.
Firestone Walker, which is owned by Duvel Moortgat, ranked as the fifth largest regional craft brewery by volume in 2019. The company increased its production 16%, to 525,294 barrels, last year and drove all of the growth within Duvel Moortgat, as both Boulevard Brewing Co. (-3%) in Kansas City, Missouri, and Brewery Ommegang (-14%) in Cooperstown, New York, were in decline.
Combined, those three brands produced 711,294 barrels of beer last year under the Duvel Moortgat banner.