Bear Republic Brewing Company co-founder Richard R. Norgrove will step down as CEO, the Northern California-based company announced Monday. Mr. Norgorve’s son, Richard G., will take over as the company’s chief executive.
In addition to the younger Norgrove’s transition into the CEO role, Bear Republic named long-time employee Peter Kruger as its new chief operating officer. He takes over for Richard G. Norgrove, who also goes by “Ricardo.”
Lastly, quality assurance manager Roger Herpst has been promoted to the role of brewmaster.
In a press release, the elder Norgrove, who will transition into the role of chairman of the board, said “bold new leadership” is needed in the current craft beer landscape in order for the company to “adapt and make the critical adjustments necessary to thrive and succeed.”
“I know our success lies in the efforts of our team and I’m enthusiastic to see what the next generation of Bear Republic will build under Ricardo’s vision,” he added.
Speaking to Brewbound, Ricardo Norgrove said Bear Republic had been succession planning for the last couple of years, culminating with him officially taking over as CEO in October.
Norgrove said he plans to run the company for the next three to seven years, before transitioning into a board role and handing over the reins to Kruger.
Kruger served as Bear Republic’s “master brewer” for nearly 13 years before taking over the COO role in April, according to his Linkedin.
In the release, Richard G. Norgrove said Kruger has been “instrumental” in both the growth of Bear Republic and the craft beer industry in Sonoma County.
“We’re fortunate to have a true pioneer of the craft beer industry as our new COO,” he added.
Meanwhile, Herpst, an 11-year veteran of Bear Republic, will be tasked with overseeing all aspects of the company’s beer production, including directing brewing operations at Bear Republic’s brewpubs in Healdsburg and Rohnert Park.
The leadership changes follow a 2018 in which Bear Republic’s production fell 15 percent, to 66,669 barrels of beer, in 2018. Production at Bear Republic, the 48th largest Brewers Association-defined craft brewery, has declined more than 14,500 barrels over the last two years, down from a peak of 81,238 barrels in 2016.
Norgrove attributed the sales declines over the last two years to the company pulling out of markets, switching wholesalers, and dealing with a water shortage, drought conditions and deadly wildfires in Sonoma County. In fact, last year’s wildfire created a labor shortage in Sonoma County that left Bear Republic struggling to fill its brewpub workforce, he said.
However, Norgrove also admitted that the brewery wasn’t as creative as it needed to be in order to compete with newer breweries. The 24-year-old company has also been hampered by an image of being the “Racer 5 IPA factory.”
That’s starting to change, Norgrove said, as the company has found success with the launch of Thru the Haze IPA, and the introduction of can packages. The company has also begun producing small batch offerings that it cans on an interim canning line and sells at its three locations.
Norgrove said his vision for Bear Republic is to dig deeper in California for “long-term, steady growth.” Since taking over as CEO, Norgrove said he has beefed up Bear Republic’s sales, marketing and events teams. He also plans to invest around $5 million later this year in a new canning line, which the company expects to be operational in the first quarter of 2020.
“I think there’s enough growth in California for Bear Republic to grow,” he said, adding that the brand is still unavailable in 15 California counties.
For 2019, Norgrove said his plan is to “dig in” and “fortify” Bear Republic for a flat year, at around 63,000 barrels, while working to remain profitable. As such, over the last seven months, the company has shed about nine jobs through layoffs, retirements and attrition.
Meanwhile, Norgrove said he continues to work to “redirect, reconnect, refocus and reestablish” Bear Republic’s relationship with its network of wholesalers across 28 states. Part of that strategy is reestablishing connections and relaunching with existing wholesalers, retrenching from underperforming markets, and seeking wholesaler changes in other markets, he said.
After a water shortage in 2015 forced Bear Republic to exit Massachusetts, Norgrove said he’s hoping to return to the market with Atlantic Beverage later this year. The company also plans to launch in Rhode Island via Atlantic by the end of the summer.
A press release with additional details is included below.
Bear Republic Brewing Co. Announces New Chief Operating Officer and New Brewmaster
(CLOVERDALE, CA) Bear Republic Brewing Company is pleased to announce the promotion of Peter Kruger to the position of Chief Operating Officer and Roger Herpst to Brewmaster. Kruger held the position of Master Brewer for more than two decades, he now takes over the role of COO from Richard G. “Ricardo” Norgrove, who is assuming the position of Chief Executive Officer from his father and company Co-Founder Richard R. Norgrove. Herpst previously held the role as Quality Assurance Manager and has worked at the company for eleven years.
Kruger has worked in various roles within the brewing industry and throughout the Western United States for more than a quarter of a century. He consulted for a variety of local businesses including Stumptown Brewery and Mary’s Pizza Shack. Kruger’s goal in his new role is to focus on constant improvement within the organization as well as increasing sustainability and fiscal efficiencies.
In addition to Kruger’s promotion to COO, Bear Republic promoted Roger Herpst to the role of Brewmaster. In his new role, Herpst will oversee all aspects related to the production of Bear Republic beer: brewing, packaging and quality assurance. In addition to his duties at the production facility in Cloverdale, Herpst will steer the brewery portion of both Bear Republic’s brewpubs: its original pub in Healdsburg and one in Rohnert Park overlooking Roberts Lake which opened in 2017. Prior to his promotion, Herpst served as Quality Assurance Manager, Brewer at Large, and was a homebrewer for several years.
“Without a doubt Peter has played an instrumental role in the growth of our company as well as the Sonoma County craft beer industry. We’re fortunate to have a true pioneer of the craft beer industry as our new COO. We’re also thankful Roger Herpst has accepted the role of Brewmaster. We look forward in his continued leadership in helping to make our beer as fresh and full flavored as possible,” said Richard G. Norgrove. “We’re honored both of these gentlemen have chosen to call Bear Republic home.”
As incoming CEO, Richard G. Norgrove added a canning line, an entirely new lineup of ales, and new distribution partners throughout the United States. While COO, Richard G. partnered with North State Solar and installed the first American Pride solar array in the United States. Combined with its Rohnert Park brewpub’s solar array, Bear Republic’s solar system size is 150 kW. In addition to its solar array system, Bear Republic has installed the world’s first bioelectrically enhanced wastewater pretreatment plant which provides close to 50% of company’s electrical needs. Under Richard’s guidance, Bear Republic will continue to focus on environmentally friendly production and sustainable business practices.
Founded by the Norgrove family in 1995, Bear Republic Brewing Company is one of the largest independent craft brewers in the United States. With a constantly growing portfolio of craft ales, Bear Republic maintains a reputation for creating undeniably tasty beverages featuring rich flavor profiles to complement your adventurous lifestyle.
“I’m proud of the accomplishments our company has brought to the national awareness of craft brewing. As I step down from day to day operations leading the charge as company Chief Executive Officer, I look forward to my son’s new role as incoming CEO. I know our success lies in the efforts of our team and I’m enthusiastic to see what the next generation of Bear Republic will build under Ricardo’s vision,” Co-Founder and now former CEO Richard R. Norgrove Sr. said. “As the industry we serve changes, bold new leadership must adapt and make the critical adjustments necessary to thrive and succeed. I look forward to the continued success of our company under my son’s leadership.”