Friday, May 20, 2011

The Bruery's Crossroad Decision

Stone Brewing dropped an expansion bomb yesterday, and today The Bruery addressed its exponential growth.  I received the email below (reprinted in its entirety) this afternoon:
To all the loyal fans and retailers of our beer,

As we approach our 3rd anniversary, it's incredible to look back at the journey of these last few years. Our growth has been of a magnitude that we never could have imagined when brewing our first 15-barrel batch. As you might already know, we've been operating at capacity for over the last year and a half; a near doubling of capacity in January of this year has been a mere drop in the bucket. We've reached a fork in the road. One path is to open a much larger brewery that would satisfy demand over the long term, and accumulate millions in debt and bring on outside investors to get to that point. The other path is renewal of our original vision: a small, family-owned business making some of the most interesting, highest-quality specialty beers available in the market in our own unique way. After much debate, research and soul-searching, we've chosen the latter path – but on a grander scale.

We have just leased a temperature controlled warehouse space that we will be filling with thousands of oak barrels, allowing us to create some of our favorite beers such as Oude Tart, Melange #3, and a variety of other delicious and innovative beers. We're extremely excited for this cellar expansion both because it will allow our creativity to shine and because it will help us get our favorite beers into more glasses in more cities. Since day one at The Bruery, we've been making barrel aged ales with an eventual goal to fill shelves with these complex and full-bodied beers. Until now, we have only been able to do this on a limited basis, primarily reaching only those in our Reserve Society. This new investment will allow us to brew more, distribute more and get more specialty beer into the marketplace.

With this change, we have had to make room in our brewing schedule to brew the beers that we'll be barrel aging. Unfortunately, Orchard White is the victim. While we have great love for Orchard White, we feel there are many great witbiers available and believe our limited resources are best spent elsewhere. Further, Rugbrød will now only be available in the fall and winter, with Hottenroth taking it's place in the spring and summer beginning in 2012.

As a company focused on quality over quantity, and founded on the basic fact that making beer is fun, we're excited to continue brewing up our dream. We won't be putting down our mash paddles in place of mechanized processes, we won't be switching our khaki shorts for navy-blue suits and most importantly, we won't be sacrificing our original vision for any reason whatsoever. Simply said, we are growing at our own pace.

Thank you all for the support these past three years. It's your love of style-bending beers that have helped us, and breweries like us, to grow and will keep us growing in the years to come. If you can make it, we'd love to see you at our 3rd Anniversary Beer Festival on May 29th to help us celebrate our future!

Your Friends at The Bruery
I applaud The Bruery for its decision to stick to its roots and culture by focusing on quality rather than quantity.  It has a reputation for its barrel-aged beers, and hopefully the leased storage space for aging beers means a wider distribution for its creative beers.  The Bruery will eventually make the leap to larger production.   There is no sense in rushing, as The Bruery can grow without comprising its values, after all The Bruery is just celebrating its third anniversary. 

White Orchard 's retirement is not surprising.  It's a fine beer, but, realistically, it won't be missed.  With all The Bruery's available beers, White Orchard is not one that leaped into my shopping cart.  (And think of the marketing opportunities for special, retro releases of White and Black Orchard.)  Rugbrod's relegation to a seasonal beer is appropriate, as a half-year's production of this malty beer should last all year.  If the downgrades of White Orchard and Rugbrod make room for bottled Humulus Gold, then then all beer drinkers are winners.  It's good that The Bruery knows what it wants to be, and most importantly, what it doesn't want to become.

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