Heileman is bolstered by a nice sip of Pabst Milwaukee brewer to roll out barrel here

November 15, 1995|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,SUN STAFF

The Halethorpe brewery of G. Heileman Brewing Co. Inc., the last major beer operation in Baltimore, got good news yesterday that the Pabst Brewing Co. has contracted to use some of its excess capacity to brew Pabst beer.

The financially struggling Heileman said Milwaukee-based Pabst -- which makes Pabst Blue Ribbon, Olympia and Hamm's beers, among others -- has agreed to produce at least 1.4 million barrels annually at its breweries in Halethorpe and La Crosse, Wis., Heileman's headquarters, starting Jan. 1.

Heileman, the nation's fifth-largest beer company, makes such beers as Colt 45 malt liquor, National Premium, National Bohemian and numerous other regional beers.

"It's a positive development for the brewery," said Randy J. Smith, vice president and general counsel for Heileman. However, he did not say how many more workers would be hired, or when.

The brewery, located on the Baltimore Beltway, has an annual capacity of 2.3 million barrels and about 500 workers.

"It's really difficult to quantify what it will mean in additional employment," Mr. Smith said, adding that it depends on whether the production comes during the busy summer season or the slow winter months.

He said the bulk of the brewing will be done in LaCrosse and he did not know how many of the 1.4 million barrels will be brewed in Halethorpe.

Mr. Smith said the agreement does not indicate any impending merger of Heileman and Pabst, and is not connected to Heileman's efforts to restructure itself.

"Contract packing is not usual in the business," he said.

A call to Pabst officials was not returned.

In September, the highly leveraged Heileman said it may not be able to make payments on $160 million of debt in January and hired Blackstone Group, a New York investment firm, to find a way to dig it out of the hole.

The company reported losing $34.7 million on sales of $778 million last year. For the first six months this year, Heileman reported losing another $24.5 million on sales of $389 million.

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