When they started out, Bronx Brewery co-founders Chris Gallant and Damian Brown had a simple vision. "We wanted to make great pale ales," said Gallant on a call Tuesday. That much hasn't changed -- Bronx Brewery may have added some twists to their lineup, but it's still an all-pale menu at their tasting room.
Back then, they self-distributed for a year. "We drove our beers around New York in an old Red Bull truck," said Brown, "and we learned a lot from that experience." You could say what they learned then as they delivered beer by hand was key to their newest experience: expansion, added distribution, and taking on investment.
The decision to take on investment was almost always in the hands of the money'd interests, to an extent. "With a brewery of our size, there's always an opportunity to spend capital, there is always a way to grow," thought Gallant. Instead of waiting for any old offer of investment, the Bronx Brewery "waited for the right partner for the long term," and that was Tenth Avenue Holdings. "They have a habit of building great New York businesses, and they're more about the people, the principles, and their belief in us."
Obviously it's not all about love and kisses on both sides. Bronx Brewery could use the cash, and will, and Tenth Avenue Holdings sees an opportunity in the craft beer industry right now. Gallant admitted as much "obviously on their end, the timing is a bit more relevant -- they can see how well craft beer has been growing."
But this focus on 'making good pale ales' and 'working with good people' will continue into the expansion. Which isn't a paradox.
The money will be used mostly for more tanks (to produce 10,000 barrels in 2015, up from 6,000 last year), and more capacity in general. But that larger capacity will also allow for more innovation in the tap room, as they'll have the ability to do smaller runs on the old system. "We'll have some small batch beers only available in the tap room," said Brown, adding that the tap room will have more space, a nicer draft system with more taps. They won't build a kitchen, but they are building relationships with local food trucks in an attempt to have them man the backyard beergarden that's forming at 856 E 136th street in the Bronx.
They'll be expanding distribution, but again, they're going to do it slowly and surely. They still remember what they learned by being their own distributors -- that when it comes to the freshness and representation of their beer in the store, the people bringing their craft to the shelves are very important.
So, yes, they'll be sending beer to Europe, to England in particular. But it's not just because of the emerging craft beer scene in that country, it's because they knew Peter Schneider and that he was opening up Crafted Exports in order to bring New England beers to the old country. By exporting this way, the guys at Bronx Brewery could be sure that "the route from our brewery to the drinkers will be short, good quality control is in place, and that they'll be placed alongside other brands that care, other brands we respect" as Gallant put it.
And the rest of the added distribution? "We're lucky enough to live in a city where there are a lot of drinkers, and one of our new hires will grow our footprint right here," Gallant said.
Bronx Brewery knows who they are, and they aren't pushing the envelope too far. Take a look at their cans, and you know that this is still true. They still only brew pale ales, even if now there are a few infused with local crops. They picked cans because they were "superior packaging with respect to light and oxygen, and because they were lighter and easier to transport," but also because they fit the brand -- "the Bronx is full of urban patterns, and it that sort of raw charm is captured in the design of the cans" said Gallant.
Back when they started, the guys that started Bronx Brewery just wanted to make beer -- "we keep our heads down, it's not about money out there to grab it, it's about making great pale ales," said Gallant. They made some careful decisions in order to grow a little bit, but the manner in which they made those decisions suggest that they're still the same old guys. You'll just be able to find their beers easier now.