An 805 line extension is coming soon to California.
Firestone Walker will start a 60-day test of 805 Cerveza — its first line extension of flagship 805 blonde ale — in early August in three California counties.
Starting August 4, 805 Cerveza (4.5% ABV), which is brewed with lime, will be available in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties via Pacific Beverage Company, according to Firestone Walker chief sales officer David Macon. Those markets make up what Firestone Walker considers its home territory.
The test run will last through October 4. In that time, the company hopes to determine the viability of extending the 805 brand, including how much it cannibalizes the 805 flagship.
Firestone Walker will offer 805 Cerveza in 6-pack bottles at a price point of around $9.99. Cerveza will also be available in 12-packs of 12 oz. cans and 24 oz. single-serve cans, as an inroads to the fertile convenience channel. The new brand will also be available on draft. Macon explained there remains a “robust” outdoor dining scene in California to trial the brand.
“We’re going to get a good read on the on-premise,” he said. “We’re going to have to do a lot of surveys and ask a lot of questions.
“And we’ll also do the analytics and understand how it does,” he continued. “We’ve got some really good support from chain grocery retailers, who’ve given us a lot of support to help us make sure that it makes a big splash.”
If 805 Cerveza makes that splash, the brand will graduate to a full launch as a year-round offering starting January 1 in California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas — which are the top markets for Firestone Walker and the 805.
Growing the 805 brand into a family of offerings has been nearly a year in the making. According to Macon, Firestone Walker co-founder David Walker told the 805 brand team last August that he wanted to extend the brand.
Still, there was a hesitancy to do so for a beer that has grown into the top selling craft beer in California. Year-to-date through mid-June, 805 is the ninth best selling craft beer in the nation, with dollar sales up 27.7%, to nearly $32.8 million, in off-premise multi-outlet and convenience stores tracked by market research firm IRI. Portfolio-wide dollar sales for Firestone Walker products in that same time frame increased 35.4%, to nearly $47.9 million.
Last year, Firestone Walker produced 525,000 barrels of beer, and 805 accounted for around 62% of the company’s volume, Macon said.
Macon credited Firestone Walker chief marketing officer Dustin Hinz, who joined the company one year ago after marketing and leadership roles with Guitar Center and Ernie Ball, with pushing the effort forward to extend 805.
Hinz explained that Firestone Walker conducted research last year to determine the profile of an 805 drinker. What the company found was that more than half of 805 consumers were drinking import beers at least once a month, and 66% of those were drinking Mexican imports. The research showed that the 805 consumer was different than a Firestone Walker drinker, which allowed the company to look beyond the craft space to a much broader consumer base that the 805 brand already connects with.
“The competitive set now isn’t so much craft itself, but it’s import and domestic,” Macon said. “That’s an important distinction about where we’re heading with 805, and what our aspirations are.”
Combine that data with a robust Mexican import market in Firestone Walker’s home state of California, and it’s easy to see why the company chose a Mexican-inspired lager.
“That’s a huge consumer segment to tap into,” Hinz said. “We can tap into a really hot trend here in California and nationally, with a Mexican-style lager, and we feel that we can do it really credibly because we’re a California born beer brand with half the population in California is Hispanic, a huge part of our workforce is Hispanic, a large portion of our drinkers are Hispanic. So it feels credible for us to do this.”
Nevertheless, Hinz said the focus isn’t on recruiting Hispanic consumers, as much as it is winning over all Mexican import drinkers.
“It’s not necessarily about trying to get people to drink more 805 as it is trying to tap into perhaps a different consumer,” Macon added.
Test brews began in August 2019, and Macon said the company is hopeful for having the final version of the beer ready to go by Friday.
Hinz said the addition of lime was intended to be a differentiator, and the consumer research the company conducted behind the brand found that a large portion of Mexican import consumers were adding lime to their beers anyway.
“We worked so diligently with Matt Brynildson and his team to get it right, and the feedback was overwhelming like, ‘Wow, this is gonna replace a lot of beers in my fridge,’” Hinz said. “And so we knew that we had something pretty special.”