San Diego-based Stone Brewing, which maintains a strong presence on store shelves across the country and even operates a taproom in Pasadena, has come under fire for laying off around five percent of its total workforce last week — including a number of long time employees who have been with the company for years.
Word first seemed to spread via Draft Magazine about the layoffs, with reporters there saying a "cryptic email" tipped them off to Stone’s decision to sever ties with dozens of employees almost overnight. News started hitting social media thereafter, and soon much of the West Coast craft beer world was engulfed in the conversation.
In all, roughly 60 employees were let go from the 1,200 person company, which is no small number given the relative brewery sizes within the craft beer universe; there are plenty of gold medal-winning breweries out there that don’t have 60 employees, period. Still, as Stone points out in their official statement on the matter, they’re still among the largest single employers in the entire craft beer market. They add:
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.
The number of layoffs speaks to just how large Stone has become over the past two decades as the rise of craft beer continues to swell — they’re the ninth-largest craft brewery in the United States at over 325,000 barrels per year says Draft, and in recent years have announced (and followed through with) plans to develop everything from an East Coast brewhouse in Richmond, Virginia to another in Germany (which just opened in September) and a hotel-restaurant complex in Escondido, CA.
The restructuring has some commenters and consumers worried that Stone could be trying to look better on paper with more cash on hand in a bid to earn a buyout from Big Beer, though that seems far-fetched given co-founder Greg Koch’s consistent stance on not selling out to the big guys. And big they are; with the approval of a merger between SABMiller and AB-InBev valued at $100 billion, there’s even more pressure on the craft beer segment to innovate their way onto already cramped store shelves and into tap lines in bars all across the country.