AleSmith President Discusses How the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted the Company’s 25th Anniversary

San Diego, California-based AleSmith Brewing’s 25 anniversary celebration was slated to start in late March and continue on through the end of 2020. But those parties were either canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think that’s been the biggest impact, not being able to relaunch and rebrand in our 25th year when we had so many big things scheduled,” president Brandon Richards told Brewbound.

AleSmith had planned parties and nearly 20 collaborations with fellow craft brewers from around the world. AleSmith’s first party was scheduled for March 30, more than two weeks into California’s stay at home order. A big celebration scheduled for August, which would have featured collaboration beers and international brewery guests, has been postponed until 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit just four months into Richards’ tenure as president. He joined the company after nearly seven years at San Diego-based Coronado Brewing, where he had spent the last two years as CEO.

“I joined in November, and December, January and February were some of the better months we’ve had as a brewery in the last year, so we were on track to really have a great 2020,” he said. “We just had so many exciting things happening. And then this all happened.”

AleSmith’s volume has held steady each year at 35,000 barrels since 2016, when it increased 40% from 25,000, according to not-for-profit trade group the Brewers Association (BA).

Since the pandemic forced the closure of its taproom and the on-premise channel, sales have declined between 30% and 40% each month, a spokesperson told Brewbound. AleSmith is hardly alone in that regard, as the average craft brewery saw its revenue decline 43.1% since the pandemic reached the U.S., according to a study the BA conducted.

To keep revenue flowing, AleSmith turned to curbside pickup and home delivery. Sales through those two contactless methods have outperformed AleSmith’s walk-in, to-go sales by nearly 300%, Richards said.

“It sure seems like e-commerce for beer is going to pick up in a big way, along with these previously non-traditional delivery and pick up methods of sales,” he said, adding that AleSmith plans to continue offering those services, as well as direct-to-consumer shipping to consumers in California.

AleSmith reopened its taproom on May 27 with several safety measures in place, including masked servers, temperature checks upon arrival for staff and guests, hand sanitizing stations at all points on entry and no refills of returned growlers. The brewery’s 600-person capacity has been reduced to 200 people to allow for proper social distancing.

Although the 25th anniversary celebrations have been postponed, the company’s planned rebrand has moved forward.

“We rebranded the typography, the anvil and just the whole can and did some awesome tweaks,” Richards said. “We were planning on having all of those beers come out relatively around the same time at the beginning of May, and now because of that [the pandemic], we have much more staggered releases.”

Recent releases — or re-releases in one case — include Cosmic Omnibus, a hazy IPA brewed in collaboration with fellow San Diego craft brewery Modern Times, and the return of the company’s AleSmith IPA, which is now available in 16 oz. cans.

AleSmith also announced it will brew a batch of Black is Beautiful, the national collaboration beer led by San Antonio, Texas-based Weathered Souls Brewing, to raise money and awareness to end police brutality.

“Having brewed a collab with our friends from Weathered Souls earlier in the year, it is an honor to join them once again and the rest of the brewing community to support this initiative bringing awareness to the social injustices that many people of color continue to endure,” Richards said in a statement.

Participating brewers are asked to donate proceeds from the sale of Black is Beautiful, an imperial stout, to organizations that work toward ending brutality or provide legal defense resources to people of color who have been wronged. AleSmith will donate 100% of net proceeds from the sales of its version of the beer to Black Visions Collective, Campaign Zero, The Innocence Project and National Bail Out.

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