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Despite Chapter 11, new ownership, Weyerbacher plans to stay and grow

However, the company will continue brewing beer in Easton, according to the new president.

Chris Lampe, COO of Weyerbacher Brewing Co. Inc., said the company finalized a restructuring partnership with 1518 Holdings LLC, a private investment group in Philadelphia that would take 55 percent ownership of the company. Lampe, who will become president as part of the restructuring, said the investment group agreed that filing for Chapter 11 would be a necessary step for the company to rebound and clean up its $2.1 million debt.

“We’ve been looking for an investment partner for a while,” Lampe said. “We started the search about two years ago. We’ve been fairly cash-strapped. We’ve been working to keep the company going, which has been a challenge.”

The investors have taken over the debt over and are working to pay off outstanding accounts, he added.

Weyerbacher has 50 full and part-time employees at its Easton and New Hope locations and does not plan to cut any staff under the new ownership, he said. Lampe will replace Dan Weirback as the company’s leader. But Weirback will continue to consult for the company.

However, Weyerbacher will have a new board of directors composed of people from the investment group, he said.

Lampe viewed the Chapter 11 filing as an unfortunate but necessary step.

“It’s not really where I wanted to go,” Lampe said. “This is where we had to be. In order for the company to grow, this was the only avenue we had. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a little bit of a new beginning as well.”

About five years ago, Weyerbacher expanded its Easton brewery in a $2 million project that led to the debt that’s hampered the company ever since.

Lampe said the company had been brewing steadily at the time and he had just started working there in branding and marketing.

“That was before the real explosion of all the other brewers out there,” Lampe said.

Lampe expects revenue to improve this year. For 2019, the company projects $6.5 million to $7 million in annual revenue, an increase from $5 million in 2018.

Last year, the company produced 11,000 barrels and could have produced 16,000 barrels, which it had on order.

“Part of the reason it was down last year, working with our suppliers, we weren’t able to get all the raw materials to produce all the beer that was on order,” Lampe said. “That’s really where the revenue shortfall came in last year.”

The company, which distributes beer to 23 states, plans to open more taprooms and introduce new beers, Lampe said. In addition, Weyerbacher will host its 24th anniversary party in June.

Lampe said he enjoys the family vibe of the craft beer industry and the supportive environment he finds in the Lehigh Valley.

“We’ve got great brewers here in the Lehigh Valley,” Lampe said. “What I hope is that as the market gets more saturated, I hope that doesn’t change.”

He has noticed that the industry nationwide seems to be getting increasingly cutthroat, with many in the industry complaining about the growth of breweries.

Lampe said he wants to help smaller brewers grow so they do not have to make the same investments as Weyerbacher, which led to the debt.

“I get excited because I get to enjoy those new breweries,” Lampe said.

This year, Weyerbacher is planning to begin contract brewing for Funk Brewing Co. Inc. of Emmaus, a move that Lampe said could help the company increase revenue.

Jon Norman, a partner and president of Funk Brewing, said he had been looking for a brewer to collaborate with for some time.

“We’ve been running at full capacity for a couple of years now so we had to find some other options,” Norman said.

Norman said Funk Brewing has been testing some products but has not begun contract brewing with Weyerbacher yet.

Funk Brewing has been using another brewer in Chicago, which Norman plans to keep. But Norman said he is looking forward to working with a local company, too.

“It’s great to keep the beer and jobs right in the area,” Norman said.

Brian Pedersen
Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108.

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