Food Service & Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Retail

Perrin partnership paying dividends

Holding company adds Florida’s Cigar City Brewing to the mix.

April 1, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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John Stewart
Head brewer John Stewart brews up Perrin’s arsenal of products. Photo by Michael Buck

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Year-to-date, Perrin Brewing Co.’s revenue is up 94 percent against last year.

Perrin’s growth last year was no slouch either, finishing 40 percent up and brewing 14,000 barrels, according to owner Keith Klopcic.

Klopcic is roughly a year into his partnership with Oskar Blues Holding Co., which acquired Perrin last year. He took over operation of the brewery after a long career with West Side Beer Distributors.

Now, Klopcic and Oskar Blues Brewing Co. founder Dale Katechis welcome a third major brewer into the partnership: Florida’s Cigar City Brewing Co. and its founder, Joey Redner.

Cigar City, founded in 2009 in Tampa Bay, has grown quickly into one of the most respected breweries in the nation and, until recently, had been in discussions with AB InBev as part of an acquisition deal to help fuel its growth.

“It’s a huge thing and actually something that’s a great feather in our cap as Perrin, to look at who we’re associated with,” Klopcic said. “It’s very exciting and it’s a move that surprised a lot of people.”

The “back of the napkin” plan for the breweries is to continue to grow at an accelerated pace. For Perrin, which was a well-funded startup brewery in 2012, the partnership means an established brewery business infrastructure.

For the other two breweries, the holding company has utilized Massachusetts-based private equity firm Fireman Capital as a sort of “mortgage company” to fuel growth, Klopcic said.

Oskar Blues has expanding facilities in Longmont, Colorado, and Brevard, North Carolina, as well as a new facility in Austin, Texas.

Cigar City will begin an immediate expansion in Florida — 97 percent of its approximately 60,000 barrels were sold in Florida last year, according to Klopcic, and unfortunately for fans of Jai Alai IPA, Michigan distribution isn’t in the immediate future.

Perrin, specifically, is expected to grow rapidly, with three 150-barrel fermenters set to arrive soon and another four recently ordered.

Klopcic expects to see Perrin finish at 27,500 barrels this year in Michigan. That doesn’t count the additional volume that will be sent to Colorado and Indiana beginning this month, and to Ohio next month.

The growth is on the heels of last year’s big finish, which saw packaging begin in the fourth quarter, accounting for 1,000 of the 14,000 barrels. Klopcic told the Business Journal in 2015, based on his distributor experience, that the total should be a 50-50 split of draft and packaged sales.

Perrin cans were only available in West Michigan in the fourth quarter of last year, and are now statewide. Perrin also has more than 1,000 tap handles across the state.

Klopcic said the plan — once the Colorado, Ohio and Indiana markets are open — is to take a break and figure out where there is demand.

“We want to grow Michigan and we’ve looked at that, at length,” he said. “Once we open those, we’ll pull the reins back and catch up to ourselves and figure out the next step.”

Demand has kept the brewery capacity tight, Klopcic said, and the ordered tanks can’t arrive in Comstock Park too soon. More markets are now calling Klopcic for beer, including No Rules Vietnamese Porter, which was named one of the top new beers of 2015 by in January and the No. 1 Winter Sipper by Draft Magazine.

A lot of growth can be credited to the work of Perrin’s distributor partners, Klopcic said, as sales staff will latch onto a product that is hot among often large and expanding portfolios of beers.

To make a brand “hot” is no easy feat, however, and much of it is the responsibility of a brewery’s marketing and sales team. But Klopcic said the most important step is in the brewhouse, where head brewer John Stewart brews up Perrin’s arsenal of beer.

“It’s all about the liquid,” Klopcic said. “John makes world-class beer. People feel safe ordering a Perrin beer. It’s a safe choice.”

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