Is April over yet?
Stone Brewing Berlin closes
The Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens – Berlin facility looks magical. The state-of-the-art brewery and destination restaurant are still actually open until the end of April, but after that the Stone operation is shutting down (with new ownership via BrewDog). Located at the site of a historic gasworks facility, the Berlin Bistro looks like it might be a brewpub of Narnia. Its indoor restaurant is decorated with oddly enchanting indoor trees, wood accents and lamp posts. It consists of a 2,400-sq-m main hall with 75 beers on tap, the largest beer selection in all of Germany, a private second-floor mezzanine and the Library Bar, with nearly 25 of its own taps and cozy fireplace seating. The outdoor patio is also very worthy of being called a mighty German brew garden.
Unfortunately, Stone Berlin was too big of a dream. Greg Koch via Stone Brewing’s blog:
We invested a significant portion of a decade and significant millions building Stone Berlin. And it didn’t work out. These things hurt and these things happen. This one happened. And this one hurts a lot.
Even though we didn’t succeed with the big plan, we count our many successes. We met a whole new country of craft beer fans, converted new converts. We created an international beer destination in Bierland. The Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Berlin was named the “Top Beer & Food Destination in Germany.” Stone IPA was rated the #1 IPA in the country.
Awards and accolades are awesome and humbling. Unfortunately they aren’t enough. To feed a beast like Stone Berlin, we needed volume. The sheer cost of building and maintaining Stone Berlin to our standards didn’t let us grow it slowly. Sometimes you gotta realize when your dream is becoming a threat to your greater good.
Let’s be clear. Stone will continue to be distributed around Europe, currently available in 26 countries. And Stone is still very much in Germany, distributed in a good portion of the nation. We have made many converts there, and we will get them good beer. Some of it will also still be brewed at the same location. The brewers have been extensively trained by us, in our ways. But the facility itself — that grand ole 1901 gasworks property with the lovely old bones — will be under the stewardship of a different (and great) craft beer company.
Koch made special note of the difficulty to stay timely and thus on budget because of the slow culture of the Berlin construction industry.
Weyerbacher files Chapter 11 and gets new investors
Weyerbacher Brewing Co. is a great brewery in Easton, Pa., that dates back to 1995, founded by Dan and Sue Weirback. Reports came out this week that the famed brand announced a 55 percent majority stake sale to 1518 Holdings LLC, based in Philadelphia, and the new stakeholders then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reorganize debt. From the press release:
“This is the last step in the process to investment. We were hoping to get through without entering Chapter 11, but the group of investors that we’re working with felt that it was necessary in order to move forward quickly.” Josh Lampe, who will become president of Weyerbacher as part of this restructuring, continued with, “looking towards the future, we’re adding some contract brewing and will be almost doubling production this year. We’ve got a lot of really good things that are happening and this restructuring allows us to really get going with some of the projects we’ve been planning for a while.”
Brewbound reports that “most of Weyerbacher’s financial issues stem from a 2014 expansion project that cost $2 million and included the addition of a 40-barrel brewhouse.”
To offset Weyerbacher’s downward momentum, new majority owners are eyeing future projects include opening additional taprooms (complementing two locations already, Easton at the brewery and New Hope at the Ferry Market), more offerings from the Weyerbacher Spirits line, “as well as continuing the 24 year tradition of big, full-flavored, high quality beers that push boundaries.”
Constellation closes two Ballast Point locations, stops plans for another
Reports have been confirmed that Constellation and Ballast Point Brewing Co. are closing two newish satellite locations — San Diego’s Trade Street brewery and Temecula, Calif.’s brewpub — while plans for its upcoming San Francisco brewpub have been shuttered. That takes Ballast Point to five locations in California and seven total in the United States, counting new locations in Chicago and the opening of its recent Disney property in Anaheim.
Last August, Constellation announced it would be opening a tasting room and kitchen in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood in early 2019. We reached out in January for an exact date, while doing this story on the Disney property, and we received no answer. The location was supposed to mark Ballast Point’s first northern California brewing location, and it had plans to house a restaurant and on-site R&D brewery.
“I can confirm that the closure of the Temecula Brewpub and Trade Street brewing facility are a result of right-sizing our cost structure based on recent craft trends,” said Stephanie McGuane, communications and brand PR with Constellation Brands Beer Division, via email.
“The Anaheim location at Downtown Disney remains business as usual, as do all others. While we’re not providing specifics as it relates to personnel, I can tell you that we’re working with impacted employees to help them transition to opportunities either within or outside the company. Ballast Point will continue to have a robust presence in southern California, and we remain committed to providing consumers with great tasting, quality products they have come to enjoy. “
There were 219 craft brewery closings in 2018 — a closing rate of 3 percent
In early April, the Brewers Association (BA) released annual growth figures for the U.S. craft brewing industry. The good news was that in 2018, small and independent brewers by the BA definition collectively produced 25.9 million bbls and realized 4 percent total growth, increasing craft’s overall beer market share by volume to 13.2 percent. The bad news: There were 219 closings in 2018 — a closing rate of 3 percent.
That’s certainly not horrible, but consider 1,049 new craft breweries opened last year according to the same report — with 7,346 craft breweries operating overall in 2018 (the most ever). That increased competition will certainly be a challenge for everyone. From Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, via press release:
“The beer landscape is facing new realities with category competition, societal shifts and other variables in play. There are still pockets of opportunity both in terms of geography and business model, but brewers need to be vigilant about quality, differentiation and customer service,” added Watson.