We talk a lot about new breweries, and we talk a lot about how a brewery grows. I’m amazed at the speed of growth that a few of our local breweries have experienced. Whenever I sit down with a new, or even existing brewery and talk about their strategy for growth, almost across the board they have the same basic strategy of “Slow and Steady”. Almost everyone repeats this same mantra when they are opening their doors and Covington’s Braxton Brewery is just one more in the list of many breweries to do so. At first glance it might seem like as soon as they launched into their successful Kickstarter campaign last fall that they threw this right out the window. It can at times seem like the growth of this brewery is like a freight train rushing through the station with craft beer fans hanging out the windows… waving their arms around and screaming about Storm and Trophy and the Taproom of the Future.
Take a deep breath, and a step back and look at the bigger picture and you’ll start to see something a bit more… elegant? Braxton is constantly blowing me away with their ability to consistently do things the right way when they make new decisions and moves toward further growth. Braxton can really set the bar in Cincinnati and beyond for the right way to do things… and they are well on their way.
How can a team manage a brewery that is on the verge of constant explosion? This brewery itself is itching to be the biggest brewery in Cincinnati… it’s not on the lips of the team themselves, but the beer seems to be screaming it loudly. The growth of Braxton seems to be the minds behind the brewery trying to hold it back… almost like holding back a waterfall from destroying the pristine village below it. The understanding that a brewery can grow so big, so fast, that it tears itself apart is one that few people appreciate.
Time To Package
Their first major growth point happened this summer when they took delivery of their two massive 80bbl fermenters. Finally things could progress to the point that their beer would be able to move across the river in a sustainable way. But even from the point that their doors were opened to the public, there were other questions being thrown around. Would we get packaged beer from Braxton? Their answer stayed pretty consistent along the journey, “When the time is right”. When they started brewing enough beer to fill those 80bbl fermenters, it was hard not to start asking the question a little louder. What’s the hold up?
Do it the right way.
What can sink a brewery faster than anything else? Doubt. Quality and consistency have always been cornerstone tenets of Braxton Brewing company, and there is no way they were going to let these factors suffer in an attempt to get beer out their door and into your local bottle shop or grocery store. They spent considerable time deciding on how to package their beer. The choice to package their limited releases in bottles and their “core” styles in cans was an easy one, but the logistics of doing so is a bit harder. This is a team that is much more likely to do things themselves to maintain a level of quality and consistency than they are to link up with a mobile canning solution and let someone else have that control… so they needed to start shopping. They not only needed a canning line, but they needed a can design, bottle designs, a storage space for all the extra supplies that would need to be on hand.
But you have to do things the right way.
We were all thrown into a beer-frenzy last week when the announcement was made that the first packaged release from Braxton would be happening in December, for repeal day. The new “Heritage Series” – would see it’s debut with 4 separate beers being released at the same time. This Imperial Stout is the biggest, heaviest most Ballsy beer that Braxton has turned out so far, in their short life.
The move to release these bottles is, to me, the second big move in their expansion, with the first being when they started selling beer across the river, in Ohio. This is marking them as a contender in a bigger beer world now. I know a lot of us have carried our Braxton growlers to far off places that we’ve traveled to share the beers that we love with others that will appreciate them, but this is opening up a new can of worms. These are now bottles that can be shared. Traded. Sent to places that a growler could never even dream to go.
Braxton can now be able to make a name for themselves in a much bigger way than they could as draft only brewers.
I CANt Wait For What’s Next
This week saw a massive crate show up in the Braxton taproom, people walked past all this new equipment without thinking twice about it. As it was unpacked, assembled…zip-tied and moved about the brewery floor, Braxton patrons didn’t even know that this was the biggest move that the young brewery was making yet this year. It’s time to can some beer. As I told you before, this was a long process.. they not only had to buy canning equipment and a canning line, but they needed to finalize designs, and find a warehouse space to store the massive pallets of empty beer cans. This is a big freaking deal.
The canning line is here. The cans are here. They are waiting on a couple more pieces of equipment, and then it all gets fired up. They have told us that we will have cans in our fridges by Thanksgiving… a goal that if they had told me this last spring, I would have maybe not believed them…
Much like their original distribution footprint, they are starting with their cans moving onto shelves in NKY, with Kroger taking up a massive piece of that. Are they going to move into Ohio? Of course, but as many of their decisions are answered it will be “When the time is right”… although they expect that time will most likely be in the spring. Until then, you have the week of November 17th to look forward to. Fresh Braxton Storm cans… it’s fun to think about, and even more fun to finally be able to say.
As I am finishing up this post and posting it, I am coming off an evening of sitting in their taproom at a special event where they revealed all this to the local beer media, and I’m struck with a feeling that I can’t really describe. I feel proud. I feel like this brewery is doing everything they do for us as beer fans. There is no selfish decisions here, it’s all about quality… they don’t want us drinking something we aren’t happy with. I have never met a brewery that when they say “we” I feel like the beer fans are included as much as the brewery team as I do with Braxton.
As I wrap this up, I want leave you with the design of the cans. To express a brewery’s identity in a beer can is not easy to do. Their partnership with Neltner Small Batch is really starting to pay off with these beer cans. That might seem like a silly statement, but when you look at this I hope that you can understand where I’m coming from with it. Somehow… they’ve managed to create a beer can that can feel modern, and fit in with the massive world of craft beer on the shelf, while still feeling like something that I remember from my childhood.
This design actually makes me feel something.
I look at this and can instantly imagine grabbing a beer from the fridge in the garage for my dad as he’s tucked away under a car changing the oil. I can see this can being passed around a living room on a Sunday afternoon during a football game 25 years ago. Somehow it’s simultaneously modern and retro. It feels like Braxton Brewing Company, a brewery that feels like it’s always been here, but like it’s on the cusp of doing things that no-one else has even dreamed of yet.
I honestly feel that this brewery is a game changer. These beer cans are a game changer. The biggest thing that I take away every time they make a move to grow, or change, or announce something new I’m left with a desire to do things differently for myself. I want to do things better… The Right Way. This may be a bit much for a beer article, and a bit grandiose for a beer can announcement… but let this push us all to Lift One To Life and:
Do Things The Right Way.