My colleague Clark Mason had an article over the weekend about a deal between the city of Cloverdale and Bear Republic Brewing that has big implications for the company and the craft brewing world in general.
Because the city’s water supply is stretched thin at best, Bear Republic is stuck at making only around 65,000 barrels of beer, or about 2 million gallons, every year. That means that while similar standout breweries, such as Lagunitas, New Belgium and Oskar Blues, reach for national distribution, Bear Republic is stuck in the second rank of breweries by size, despite the public’s love of the company’s brews, such as Racer 5.
Under the new deal, however, Bear Republic will front most or all of the $460,000 cost for the city to drill two new wells. That clears the way for Bear Republic to expand (the brewpub is in Healdsburg, but all but a trickle of the beer is made in a bigger brewery in Cloverdale). Brewmaster Richardo Norgrove told me last week that he’d like to see the brewery at 200,000 barrels per year, roughly triple its current output. That would allow Bear Republic to vault into the top ranks of breweries, competing with the likes of Stone Brewing and Harpoon and vaulting over big names such as Dogfish Head and Boulevard. That could mean that Bear Republic could find itself at or near the top 10 craft brewers in terms of volume. In 2012, it was a mere 34 on the Brewers Association list.
And that would mean that humble little Sonoma County could have two breweries in the top 10 at some point, including Lagunitas, currently at #6, though likely to go even higher next year.
- Sean Scully