Stone Switches to Massachusetts Distributor With Recent Pay to Play Judgment

Austin Ray
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Stone Brewing is changing distribution in Massachusetts as its longtime wholesale partner has unloaded the brand to an area competitor. After selling Stone beer in the Commonwealth for 15 years, Atlantic Beverage Distributors has agreed to sell the rights to the brand to Craft Brewers Guild, a branch of the Sheehan Family wholesaler network.

Reached by GBH, Stone provided a statement attributable to Todd Karnig, vice president of sales, who confirmed the two wholesalers “communicated directly” to facilitate the changeover, adding Stone “supported their mutual decision.”

“We welcome the opportunity to work in Massachusetts with a company that we already have a deep relationship with,” Karnig says. “Over the past two years we’ve further developed our relationship with The Sheehan Family Companies adding Wisconsin, New York City, Northern Virginia, and Washington D.C. They are a very important and valued partner.”

Multiple messages left early this week with both Craft Brewers Guild and Atlantic went unreturned as of press time.

Either way, it’s been a remarkable few months for Stone, Atlantic, and its new distribution partner, Craft Brewers Guild.

This past September, Stone filled out the map and now boasts distribution in all 50 states. But those footprint gains coincided with a number of high profile personnel shakeups, the most recent of which came at the end of October when former chief operating officer Pat Tiernan resigned.

Craft Brewers Guild, meanwhile, has been the face of the ongoing pay-to-play scandal that has been bubbling beneath the surface of the state’s beer industry for three years now. Last month, a Massachusetts judge upheld a $2.6 million fine levied against the company for unlawfully offering different prices for the same products to different bars, a practice known as “price discrimination.” On that note, Karnig adds the company doesn’t have any concerns regarding the wholesaler’s past improprieties.

“We have always held ourselves to the highest ethical standards and vet our distributors to ensure that they do the same,” he says. “Pay-to-play practices are simply not a part of who we are.”

As for Atlantic, Brewbound notes that this is the second time in five months the company has shed a San Diego-based brand from its portfolio. It dumped Ballast Point earlier this year for Constellation to plug into its own distribution network.

—Dave Eisenberg