With more breweries operating in San Diego County and throughout the country than ever, the brewing industry is more competitive and challenging than ever. Many independent beer interests are struggling, including a number of reputable, seemingly rock solid operations. Case in point, Council Brewing, a popular brewery with a loyal following and award-winning beers. Despite all that, earlier this week, ownership informed employees that the company will be going out of business. Ownership confirmed these developments overnight and officially announced the impending closure via its social media accounts today. December 14 will be the last day for the Santee facility, and December 15 for Kearny Mesa.
This development came as something of a surprise given Council’s emboldened decision to expand earlier this year. Owners Curtis and Liz Chism did so by acquiring a second brewery and tasting room in Santee in March. That facility previously belonged to Finest Made Ales, which shuttered last December after four years at that spot (which was previously occupied by Manzanita Brewing, which changed its name to Twisted Manzanita Ales before going out of business in 2016). That expansion increased Council’s overall production capabilities to 2,700 barrels annually (up from 1,000 barrels brewed in 2017).
“We entered 2018 knowing that it would be a make it or break it year for Council,” said the Chisms via a post on the company’s Facebook page. “We were excited when we opened our Santee brewery and tasting room and had hope for our future. However, we had many significant cost increases this year (freight, labor, rent, utilities, etc) and much lower tasting room/distribution sales due to over-saturation of the brewery market, we began taking heavy losses part way through the year. As a result, we’ve had too long of a stretch of declining sales that we can’t sustain any longer.”
The Chisms founded Council in 2013 partially with money raised via a successful crowd-funding campaign. It quickly gained a positive reputation and fanfare behind a vast array of beer styles, notably IPAs, its Pirate’s Breakfast imperial oatmeal stout, fruited versions of its Beatitude Tart Saison and a variety of barrel- and fouder-aged beers. Liz also became a popular figure in the local beer scene thanks to her dual status as a female brewery owner and head brewer.
In what is both a real and startling sign of the times for the craft brewing industry, Council is the second San Diego brewery in as many days to come forth with troubling news for their fans. While their future has yet to be determined, the owners of Benchmark Brewing announced yesterday that they have less than a week to raise enough money to maintain tenancy at the company’s Grantville headquarters. Benchmark owners Matt and Rachael Akin are hoping to sell the brewery, among other options.