“We are looking to grow aggressively and our goal is to become a national brand,” he said.
How aggressive? The Southern California-based brand was recently on display at the 75th annual National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) conference, held last month in San Diego. Johnson claims to have met with 20 distributors all of whom are interested in taking the brand into previously untapped markets.
Fireman’s Brew is currently is available in only four states – Arizona, California, Colorado and Illinois – but Johnson said he hopes to immediately fill distribution gaps in surrounding states, including New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. And in 2013, Johnson’s plans call for even wider distribution to markets on the Eastern Seaboard and in the Midwest.
“We feel there is a market for our beer everywhere in this country and we want to make it available to anyone who will enjoy it,” said Johnson.
In order to broaden its distribution footprint, Johnson said the company will need to significantly scale up production volumes. Fireman’s Brew – which is currently brewed under contract at Mendocino Brewing Company – is on pace to produce roughly 3,000 barrels in 2012. Johnson hopes that added distribution territory and bi-coastal brewing capabilities with Mendocino will allow Fireman’s to continue growing both production volumes and total revenue.
“Through the third quarter of this year, our total revenue has grown over 300 percent,” he said. “We would like to experience similar growth next year.”
Johnson attributes the recent growth to the brand’s ability to translate to the everyday beer consumer.
“We bridge the gap between the 92 percent and the 8 percent,” he said. “We make high quality beers that aren’t so abstract that they turn off the average beer drinker.”
The brand has seen a fair amount of its success at the grocery level, earning placements in 225 Ralph’s outlets and 35 Sprouts Farmers Market locations. Johnson said he’s also been in talks with a large, national restaurant chain and a large West Coast grocer. Still, he’s being cautious with placements.
“We are strategic about what we do,” he said. “We don’t want to place our beer where it’s going to fail.”
And in a move that is likely to bolster the national aspirations of the brand, Fireman’s Brew recently announced a private stock offering, open to residents of California. The company is offering 6,250,000 shares of common stock at $0.80 per share for an aggregate offering price of $5,000,000.