California beer brand Stone Brewing has announced that it is closing up its office and retail business in China. That means the taproom on Yuyuan Lu is, which closed last week until March 8, will remain closed for good, and their plans for expansions in Beijing and elsewhere are scuppered. The announcement has come as a surprise, to say the least.
Since opening back in August 2018 (when we checked it out), Stone has consistently been rammed with patrons. For a brand that delights in making dramatically hoppy, bitter and bold beers—flavors that are still catching on in a market dominated by mild and/or fruity stuff—that's an achievement. Check the full statement from Stone HQ, which name-checks the trade war and coronavirus as deciding factors, after the jump.
Everyone at Stone, in the USA and in China, is definitely proud of our brand and all of our accomplishments. We have made an impact on the craft industry in China. And we will continue to lead with our quality beers in distribution with Top Shelf, our import partner. However with trade war tariffs heavily impacting our margins, and coronavirus impacting our retail business, and with a growing need to invest continuously in our home market of California, Stone leadership made the difficult decision to wind down our China office and retail business. This decision is especially difficult as we have been enormously proud of our accomplishments in China, and it is not a reflection of performance (outside of the above mentioned extenuating circumstances). Our expansion has been an incredible adventure with amazing achievements to celebrate. Rather than assume that each one of our notable successes are widely known, we’re going to take a moment to celebrate them here: • In 2019 alone, we served more than 130,000 curious and passionate craft beer fans in Shanghai. • We earned 1,853 guest reviews on the country’s user review app dianping.com for an average of 4.85/5, which put us in the top 1% of all Western restaurants in Shanghai. • Stone Brewing Tap Room was consistently named as a favorite beer bar in Shanghai in 2018 and 2019 • Named Best Beer Program in Asia’ by Drink Magazine Asia, Asia’s leading bar industry trade journal. • The Tap Room was consistently profitable in each month of operations since its third month. • Our team in China is recognized for being the best there is, and they have been committed, enthusiastic, and bleed the Stone revolutionary...in short, they’ve been everything we ever asked for. We are so very thankful for all they did to help independent American craft beer earn its place in China, which only makes the hurt around this decision sting even more sharply.