SAN FRANCISCO – In 2005, when Co-Founder of 21st Amendment Brewery Shaun O’Sullivan approached his business partner Nico Freccia about the idea of canning their wildly popular Watermelon Wheat beer, Freccia thought it was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard.
6 years later, Freccia is eating his words, and enjoying every bit of it.
In 2010, the boys at 21st Amendment were up 205%, after increasing their production from 4,100 barrels to 12,500.
“In 2010, our target was to get to 8,000 barrels,” said Freccia. “We couldn’t make beer fast enough for these existing markets. We hit 12,500 barrels and we shorted everyone all year long. Nobody ever got the full order that they asked for.”
Things aren’t slowing down in 2011 either. They recently got picked up by 100 Safeway stores in Northern California (tripling their volume in the Bar Area) and an additional 80 in the Portland area. A collaboration brew is planned with Ninkasi and Freccia is hosting a seminar at the Craft Brewer’s conference.
As a result, they will not be adding any new markets in 2011 and just focusing on growing the brand in the territories they are in.
“We are focusing on increasing our capacity, nailing down our specialty and collaboration brews and just focusing on sales and growing the markets we are in,” said Freccia.
The 21A Story
21st Amendment has enjoyed sort of a meteoric rise over the past 3 years. In 2008 they produced just 1,000 barrels. Freccia’s plan for 2011 is 25,000.
“We really exploded in 09,” he said. “we went from being in 1 state to being in 11 states.”
It all began in 2005 when O’Sullivan and Freccia were looking at ways to expand the business. After deciding that expanding the operation by opening a second brewpub location was not the way to go, they decided on expansion through production.
They finally decided on canning their beers and began searching for production breweries that we already canning.
“We thought that in 10 years every major craft brewery would have their beer in cans,” said Freccia.
After little luck finding a partner in California, Freccia and O’Sullivan expanded the search nationwide for a brewery that would be able to meet their needs for contract brewing.
“We finally decided on the Cold Springs brewery in cold spring Minnesota,” said Freccia. “They had just invested $20 million into a new distribution and packaging center for energy drinks in the late 90s, which allows us to take advantage of that system.”
The system in place at the Cold Springs location not only allows them to can, but also to package their cans in cardboard containers, further distinguishing the 21st Amendment brand from other craft breweries distributing their suds in aluminum.
Freccia believes that their unique artwork has contributed to some of their success.
“Doing beer in cans is an opportunity to tell our story and to do it in a visual way that is unique,” said Freccia. “That is part of the reason we box our beers as opposed to using the 6 rings that go on top of the cans. Sure it may cost a little bit more money, but we get to tell our story on this canvas that sets us apart from other people.”