Craft Beer Pioneer Stone Brewing Lays Off 5% Of Workforce

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Are the effects of Big Beer buyouts finally being felt?

One of America’s largest craft breweries and one of the first to export American craft beer to Europe, Stone Brewing Co., announced that it has laid off a portion of its workforce in what is being called a workforce restructuring. The news comes on the heels of the celebration of its 20th anniversary and just this year opening a brewery in Berlin, Germany.

Speculation started with this tweet today.

Reports from affected employees started to appear Twitter and Facebook throughout the afternoon. Later in the day, former head brewer at Stone, Mitch Steele posted to Facebook about the news.

How ‘it came to this’ may have to do with what Stone’s current CEO, Dominic Engels, refers to as pressures from Big Beer, specifically AB InBev‘s tactical distribution efforts. Slowing growth in the ‘craft beer’ sector may also be a contributor. No matter the cause, this news will surely send a bit of a shock wave through the community, as it is the first significant reduction in labor force the modern craft beer movement has seen.

Official Statement from Stone Brewing

(Escondido, CA) – Due to an unforeseen slowdown in our consistent growth and changes in the craft beer landscape, we have had to make the difficult decision to restructure our staff. Unfortunately, this comes despite a year that includes the incredible accomplishments of opening two new breweries, which are ultimately expanding the availability of Stone beers and boosting the reputation of American craft beer in Europe.

More recently however, the larger independent craft segment has developed tremendous pressures. Specifically, the onset of greater pressures from Big Beer as a result of their acquisition strategies, and the further proliferation of small, hyper-local breweries has slowed growth. With business and the market now less predictable, we must restructure to preserve a healthy future for our company. Even given this unfortunate circumstance, we will continue to be fiercely independent and, importantly, Stone remains one of the largest – if not the largest – employers in the craft brewing segment.

It is crucial to recognize that this decision was made after much careful consideration. Approximately 5% of all team members were affected, and they were offered a substantial notice period and career transition services. The team members no longer with our company are talented, committed individuals who have held important roles in our organization, and we expect that their talents will be in high demand. This reduction was not a reflection of the work they did, but a careful decision made to ensure that our company will remain competitive and profitable. No additional layoffs are expected within Stone’s foreseeable future.

In summary, we want to emphasize the following points:

  • This year, we completed several significant investments that have been in the works for a number of years.

  • A recent decline in domestic growth for the category and for Stone has forced us to restructure in order to preserve our independence in an increasingly competitive category.

  • Stone remains one of the largest – if not the largest – employer in the craft beer segment and remains dedicated to providing our fans with fresh beer

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