It’s not just the California wine industry being hit by massive and devastating fires in Sonoma and Nap counties. The region is also home to a rich and thriving brewing community as well. In fact, New Albion Brewing Company, the first microbrewery to be built from the ground up opened just outside of the town of Sonoma making the area the birthplace of the craft brewing movement. As the fire has ravaged the wine industry by scorching vineyards, holding up the harvest of late-season grapes and damaging or destroying numerous wineries, the beer industry has so far been spared any direct hits. The closest call was at Moonlight Brewing where founder Brian Hunt described the fire as burning within one block of the brewery with “total devastation” beyond that.
The biggest impact so far has been the economic one.
Although no breweries have so far suffered any direct fire damage, many breweries were without power for a day out two with a few breweries still without power as of Thursday. No power, no brewing of course, but an even bigger impact has been lack of business at the brewery tasting rooms. With massive evacuations still in place and a virtual war zone atmosphere, there is little to no customer appetite for the local restaurants, bars and taverns and brewery tap rooms.
Those breweries who have power and have been able to return to brewing operations since the fires started last Sunday night are now faced with staffing issues. Many employees are evacuated while some are dealing with lost homes or caring for loved ones who have lost a home. Many have simply left the area temporary to find a place to stay.
The short-term impact will be challenging for the nearly 60 craft breweries in the Napa and Sonoma region but the long term could be even more demanding as the local economy struggles to return to normal. Only time will tell.