Reyes Beverage Group today announced it has hired former Firestone Walker vice president of sales Steve Almaraz as its new craft category development director.
In the newly created position, Almaraz will be focused on “improving the company’s capabilities against craft beer sales.”
“This role, and Steve Almaraz in particular, will advance our current educational programs for both our California sales team and retailers while providing greater momentum to build the craft brands in our portfolio,” Ray Guerin, the CEO of Reyes Beverage Group, said in a statement.
In an interview with Brewbound, Almaraz elaborated on what he’ll be tasked with when he officially joins the Reyes group on Aug. 11.
“My main role is to have relationships with craft brewers and be the conduit between the distributors’ point of view and the brewers’ point of view,” he said. “What I can bring to the table is the 20 years I have been helping to develop craft brands. That is a piece that I know I can fit into a nice big puzzle.”
Almaraz was a critical piece of a Firestone Walker organization that grew from 6,000 barrels of beer to more than 200,000 during his 15-year tenure.
“He is one of the long-term committed craft professionals who helped establish the category in California,” Firestone Walker founder David Walker said in a statement.
Before accepting the position with Reyes, Almaraz said numerous beer companies approached him.
“I had some phenomenal offers from some other brewers,” he said. “I saw great opportunities with those, but this was something so unique that I couldn’t pass it up. These guys (Reyes) are looking to take craft to another level.”
Almaraz previously worked in sales for Wine Warehouse and Shamrock Imports before joining Firestone Walker in 1999.
The addition of Almaraz adds more craft experience to a Reyes organization that is shifting more of its focus towards that subcategory. Earlier this year, the wholesaler launched Unique Craft Solutions, a specialty beer division concentrated entirely on improving sales of craft beer in Southern California.
Last November, Reyes acquired Southern California’s Allied Beverages, which sells about 12.6 million cases of beer annually, in a deal pegged at $225 million. And in 2012, the group purchased Chicago’s premier craft beer wholesaler, Windy City Distribution, in a deal that some sources said could be worth “well over $50 million.”
In total, Reyes Beverage Group sells and delivers more than 120 million cases of beer annually to on- and off-premise retailers in California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington D.C.