MillerCoors' parent company announced Monday that it will cease production at its Irwindale brewery located along the 210 Freeway by September, and that it has signed a deal that gives Pabst Brewing Co. the option to buy the facility.
The brewery, whose hops aroma has become familiar to many motorists who use the 210, opened in 1980 and brews the MillerCoors line as well as other brands by Pabst, according to a news release from Chicago-based Molson Coors.
It had 510 employees in 2017 and produced up to 6 million barrels a year, MillerCoors' website said.
The number of workers has since dropped to about 470, according to the company's statement on Monday.
In 2019, the brewery produced 4.8 million barrels.
Operations will transition to the beer giant's breweries in Golden, Colorado, and Fort Worth, Texas, over the next nine months, Molson Coors' statement said.
“This move will allow us to optimize our brewery footprint while streamlining our operations for greater efficiency across the network,” Chief Integrated Supply Chain Officer Brian Erhardt said in the news release. “While it was a very difficult decision, we have extra capacity in our system and Irwindale’s production can be absorbed by other breweries in our network.”
MillerCoors has about 25% of the beer market in the U.S. but has been losing some business to smaller brewers, imports and wine and spirits in the past few years, according to the Brewers Association. Overall beer sales in America declined 4% from 2008 to 2017, the group said.
In 2018, Pabst alleged in court that MillerCoors was trying to put it out of business by lying about not having the capacity to continue brewing Pabst beers under a 1999 agreement between the companies. That longstanding deal expires in 2020 but provided for possible extensions, CNN reported in November 2018.
Pabst ultimately settled with MillerCoors but the terms were not disclosed, according to industry website Brewbound.
What will happen to brewery's employees is unclear.
Robert Vantino, a two-decade veteran at the facility, said the company allowed workers to take Tuesday off to digest the news.
He had four years to go before being eligible for full retirement, Vantino told KTLA. He said he was planning to retire in Pittsburgh to avoid the high living costs in California.
"My life right now has been turned upside down... Now, I don’t know what I’m going to do," Vantino said. "I’m the only provider for my home. Everything I’ve worked for for the last 19, 20 years is just going to go away."
Jude Lewis works near the brewery and said Molson Coors' decision to leave Irwindale surprised him, noting some upgrades to the facility in recent years.
The 40-year-old plant has not sent any wastes to a landfill since 2010 and has the largest solar panel installation at any brewery in the U.S., according to MillerCoors' website.
"We know some people that work there," Lewis told KTLA. "It’s shocking."
The facility hosted the Irwindale Chamber of Commerce's annual first responders appreciation breakfast, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"We'll miss them!!" the agency's transit policing division tweeted on Tuesday.
— LASD Transit PIO (@LASDTSBPIO) January 7, 2020