Hangar 24 Brewery Lays Off 42% of Brewing Production, Slated to Restructure Operations
(Redlands, CA) – 2018 was a very difficult year for regional craft breweries. While many smaller breweries survived and thrived with on site can sales and growler fills, stagnant sales in retail hit the distributed brewery hard. For various reasons, production goals made of yesteryear have not scaled well in the present, and have led to many breweries having to slow down, create new products on the fly, and weather the storm the best they can. Relative to how lofty a regional player’s goals were, there has been some bigger measures taken to have one’s company survive in these tough times.
At one time, Hangar 24 Brewery out of Redlands, CA was poised to be the next successful regional Southern California craft brewery, going head to head with market veterans like Stone, Lagunitas and Firestone Walker. They penetrated the retail market rather quickly with flagship Orange Wheat and Betty IPA, you could find either in almost any decent beer bar and bottle shop. Production was going so well that Hangar forged a alternative proprietorship with heritage craft brewery Gordon Biersch to offload production on both Orange Wheat and Betty.
In the last 3-4 years, there have been some small but noticeable changes to Hangar, with some restructures in workforce, market presence and a complete product rebrand in 2017.
Depending on who you talk to, Hangar 24 has unfortunately had three rounds of layoffs in the last year, culminating with 6 members of the 13 person brewing staff being let go as of this past Friday, January 4th. We reached out to many former employees of Hangar 24 for word on this matter. Due to the stipulations of their severance agreements, none of the employees wished to be named, understandably. While there was nothing shared that was controversial or scandalous, the sentiment echoed that owner Ben Cook has been scrambling to rightsize the company, with original plans to open a third destination in Orange County California. Now it seems that Hangar 24 will focus on the SoCal market rather than trying to gain traction in outlying Arizona and Nevada. It was also noted that Hangar 24 keeps making hires from former ABI employees in hopes of implementing “big beer” ideas, and that thus far, have not been successful. For a very one sided, but interesting view from ex-employees, please feel free to glance over this page from Glass Door.
Once we received word of these layoffs, we reached out to owner Ben Cook for some insight.
“Hangar 24 has been up to a lot in recent months to adapt to the ever changing beer industry, our place within it, and to prepare for a great 2019.
First, we welcome a mostly new leadership team. We recently hired a new Director of Sales, Tim Diener, who came from a very successful career at ABInbev to lead the charge for our sales team. We are excited to have Tim join the team at Hangar 24. We are also honored to welcome new Director of Brewing and Supply Chain, Sofonyas Cherinet. Sof brings the highest level of Brewing expertise that Hangar 24 has had in our 10 years of brewing. Sofonyas’s most recent leadership roles were at Karbach Brewing and New Glarus Brewing. Taking on the new role of Director of Retail is Jason Wozniak, previously the GM of our Lake Havasu City, AZ taproom and restaurant. Todd Smith, our current VP of Finance will continue in his current role.
Second, we set the 2019 goals and budget based on what’s working, what’s not working, and where we want to invest. We will work with our distributors in new and exciting ways to be the best partner we’ve ever been. We will operate financially responsibly to provide the best working environment and opportunity for the Hangar 24 team. Taprooms sales are up, wholesale beer volume is down. We will be opening at least one more retail location in 2019. Our existing retail locations will continue to offer an ever evolving menu of creative and adventurous beers along side premium backyard style BBQ. Additionally, we shifted some production to our alternating proprietorship brewing location that we get benefits of economies of scale which help to make us more competitive and provide the best product for our customers. Hangar 24’s Redlands brewing location gets capacity and resources freed up to create new innovative brands for our retail locations and for future innovation for our distributors. With that, we cut six of the thirteen brewing staff positions and of the eighty six total staff at Hangar 24. This of course was a tough decision and we hate losing good people. We are thankful for all of their hard work and wish them the best.
As stated many times throughout the beer industry media recently; times are tough out there right now. Breweries are adapting or going out of business. We are an independent craft brewery and in it for the long haul. We couldn’t be more thankful to get to do what we do and appreciate everyone that was, is, and will be with us on this great beer adventure.”
Of importance, both former employees and Ben himself have remained consistent on the fact that they wish to remain independent, and this company has largely been captained by Ben and his family. We want to wish the best of luck to those who have been let go at Hangar 24 in these tough times.