‘Sad day’ as US importers Shelton Bros close

Australian and New Zealand brewers have said it is a ‘sad day’ as US importer Shelton Brothers is forced into liquidation.

According to US beer news site Good Beer Hunting last week, Massachusetts-based Shelton Brothers announced it was closing its doors after 24 years. It is being forced into liquidation by its bank due to the pressure of COVID-19, as huge swathes of US bars, pubs and restaurants remaining closed.

The company, which also runs The Festival, attended by brewers from across the globe, has reportedly let go of 25 staff, and owes money to suppliers and brewers.

Shelton Brothers imports beer into the US from all over the world, including beers from Australian and New Zealand breweries.

Brewer Topher Boehm at Wildflower has been working with the Shelton Brothers team for a number of years.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for an extremely important family business in the brewing industry as a whole,” he said.

“We count ourselves lucky to have worked with them and maintain a high level of admiration for them,” he said.

Moon Dog Craft Brewery, which has been investing in its own successful export business, has also worked with Shelton for the past five years. New product development and export sales manager Dave Langlands said it was disappointing news for the industry.

“When I heard about it, from a personal point of view, it was really sad to see that happen to a company we’ve worked with for so long,” he said.

“We were planning to do more with them, so it’s disappointing to not have that channel into the US market. But we’ve been really fortunate over COVID to have net growth in export sales across multiple markets.”

Indeed, Moon Dog has seen its export businesses in the UK, South East Asia and Japan grow, despite the pressures and challenges of the pandemic.

“What we’ve noticed there is a shift from more traditional import structures to those importing businesses with a heavy online presence doing really well, those that have a subscription service and well-put-together online stores and offerings.

“Shelton had strong relationships with bars and strong on-premise business. A lot of the mix of what we sent to them was kegs which would have really hurt when COVID hit, they would have had a lot of keg stock they were holding.

“They’ve been around for so long, they were one of the first to bring Cantillon to the US, they were really ahead of their time. It’s really sad, we feel for them.”

8 Wired Brewing, based in Warkworth, New Zealand also worked with Shelton, telling Brews News‘ New Zealand correspondent Michel Donaldson they were not fiscally hurt by the closure, but that it was a “sad day” to see their friends at Shelton close their doors.

“We’ve had a great partnership with them for the last decade and we’re gutted to see that relationship come to an end,” said sales manager Brian Watts.

“The pandemic has been difficult on everyone this year and unfortunately it changed business operations and consumer behaviour in such a way that was too much for them to overcome.

“Punters in the US essentially quit “shopping” for beer when the pandemic hit and were instead just “buying” beer.

“They didn’t want to spend time at speciality package stores searching for unique beers from around the world as fear of the virus created a “get in and get out quickly” mentality.

“Couple that with beer bars being closed (or limited occupancy) across the country… and the overall change in the beer community was too crippling for Shelton’s business model.

“We have nothing but love for the entire Shelton Brothers company and all the good people that worked there.

“They were pioneers that had had a huge impact on growing the beer community in the states and allowing breweries like us to share our beer with people on the other side of the world.”

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