After three years of selling 805 Blonde Ale in California only, Firestone Walker will begin shipping the beer to Arizona, Nevada and Texas for the first time this month.
Southern Wine & Spirits will sell the brand in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. In Arizona, Hensley Distributing will sell the “session beer” in Phoenix and Finley Distributing will sell the beer in Tucson. Brown Distributing in Austin, Andrews Distributing in Dallas-Fort Worth and Silver Eagle in Houston and San Antonio will manage distribution in Texas.
“When 805 was available only on the Central Coast, people bootlegged it down to Los Angeles,” David Walker, co-founder of Firestone Walker wrote in a statement. “Now that we’re in Los Angeles, people are bootlegging it to Nevada and Arizona. The beer is telling us where it wants to go.”
A low-alcohol session offering that Firestone originally brewed as a reaction to increasing local competition, 805 emerged as one of the best-selling national craft brands in 2015. According to market research firm IRI Worldwide, sales of 805, the 24th largest craft brand in supermarkets, were up more than 166 percent through Nov. 29, 2015.
805, which is billed as a beer that “embodies a California mindset that can be lived anywhere,” has its own website and social media accounts, and has been featured on various Firestone Walker billboard ad campaigns in Southern California.
During an interview at the 2014 Winter Brewbound Session, Walker discussed the success of an 805 offering that was built as its own stand-alone brand, separate from other Firestone Walker products, and the need to grow the piece of the portfolio that was designed for a more mainstream palate.
“We love the niche market that we have with some of our barrel-aged beers, but our future is moving the import drinker to drinking great, fresh craft beer,” Walker said at the time.
“I think the consumer, nowadays, really wants to feel a little different,” he added. “Maybe, perhaps, they feel a little bit more different drinking a session IPA or an 805 than they do drinking the most popular beer in America.”
The decision to expand distribution of the 805 brand comes about two months after Firestone announced a $15 million expansion that would double brewing capacity, to 600,000 barrels, at its facility in Paso Robles, Calif. That project is not expected to finish until 2017.