Third in a series.
That the domestic craft beer industry is going through a business metamorphosis, there is no doubt. New rules of business are emerging, and brewers that learn, adopt and adapt to these shifting norms will likely continue to succeed. However, even amid these changes many longstanding, traditional business principles remain the same.
Successful businesses often continue to grow in size, scope and capacity through the simple practices that brought them to the point of success, benefitting from wise decisions and enduring regulatory and financial hiccups (both big and small). Startups become small breweries, small breweries become local breweries, and local breweries become, well, large. Regional brewery is the definition from the Brewers Association that includes craft breweries with an annual production of more than 15,000 barrels.
Craft breweries of this size have usually passed through the related phases of facilities expansion and brewery-as-destination, and have now become forces of the business in their own right. Brewing is no longer simply satisfying local accounts, growing into neighboring markets or providing enough packaged product for state distribution. These such brewers begin operating on a national scale, serving nearby states (or even limited international markets) and develop into major recognized brands. They constitute a genuine and repeated presence at national awards and conventions, and attract equivalent attention from consumers and other brewers outside the state. These are the likes of Yuengling, Sierra Nevada, Boulevard, Brooklyn, Abita, Bell’s, Deschutes, Avery—and a few North Texas brewers entering their second decade have been around long enough to begin scratching at this level of operation.
Community Beer Company opened its new 70,000-square-foot brewery along Dallas’ Stemmons Freeway in February as part of the new Pegasus Park development. “New brewery” is an understatement, as it is less an expansion of taproom space and brewing capacity and more the founding of an entire Community Beer-related complex, including a full-service restaurant and event space. “We are excited about our new facility and all the things it allows us to do to create an awesome guest experience,” says Kevin Carr, CBC’s owner and founder. “Lots of windows and natural light, expanded production space, a patio and biergarten, a restaurant, and more… We love our new home!” And Community is just getting started.
A few North Texas brewers entering their second decade have been around long enough to begin scratching at this level of operation.
By its nature as a contrarian industry, craft beer consumers have long associated big with all that is wrong with corporate brewing conglomerates, which has the unfortunate effect of viewing “small” brewers as desirable and virtuous in their struggle and “large” brewers as the enemy in their success. In cases of growth by corporate acquisition—where the brewery advances not internally and organically but by an infusion of outside capital—a strong case can be made to this effect, and a noticeable decline in quality has been noted in these few cases. Yet there are successful, large craft brewers that remain self-owned and independent, and in full control of their quality and company direction. One should not dismiss a craft brewery based only on their square-footage.
Size provides durability and protection for a business, allowing them to ride out financial dips and shortages better than smaller operations. (Community’s ridiculous trials building and moving into this new facility during a pandemic might have ended a smaller brewery.) Size makes a business into a presence in city economics and sometimes city politics, able to potentially hold some influence in budgets, infrastructure, zoning and economic development. Size allows a brewery to become a legitimate employer to their staff (ie, benefits, insurance, profit-sharing), and even an incubator of other small businesses either from experienced employees striking out on their own or hosting in-house artisan marketplaces.
Size allows for more diversification of facilities, products and services, even entertainment options. More than just brewery-as-destination, with growth comes additional endeavors like developing their own lines of spirits (usually whiskey) or expanded barrelage programs. Taproom kitchen services become full-service restaurants in their own right, some with an eye for recognition within their own industry (open only weeks, Community Kitchen is already beginning to accumulate accolades). Spaces for bands or private gatherings become attached music and entertainment venues, and what began as brewing facilities with a taproom become a campus of associated sites and facilities.
Community Beer Company is not alone in their race to the top. 903 Brewers is about to break ground on their new 45,000-square-foot brewery facilities in Sherman, and already distributes internationally. (“Currently, 903 is imported in Mexico, UK, and now Japan with several other countries hopefully added in 2023,” says Jeremy Roberts, owner and brewer, who just returned from a Tokyo beer festival.) Likewise, Tupps Brewery is about to open their own new expanded complex in the 120-year-old McKinney Grain Mill sometime next year, and stands to rival CBC in size and reach. Just about every brewer in North Texas has at least one eye on some future expansion, which is a sign of a healthy heartbeat for the entire local industry.
Beyond simply expanding sales and scope, breweries at this level become legitimate commercial brands, with all the privilege and pitfalls that entails. As another famously trademarked brand once said: “With great power comes great responsibility.” However, breweries like CBC come with big shoulders, earned over time and with a lot of hard work, and hopefully they also have the confidence to lead consumers and their local industry into the next decade.