Chula Vista, California-based Novo Brazil Brewing was named the winner of Startup Brewery Challenge 9, a business pitch competition sponsored by Craft Brew Alliance.
Held during Wednesday’s Brewbound Session conference in Santa Monica, California, the competition featured five brewery entrepreneurs, who were given four minutes to showcase their beers and business plans in front of a panel of industry judges.
Novo Brazil CEO and master brewer Eduardo Pentagna pitched his company’s strong country-of-origin story, a product that uses Brazilian ingredients and a brand identity featuring vibrant colors.
“I came just wanting to introduce us and show our hard work, and it is amazing they could recognize us,” Pentagna said following the competition. “It was a very good crowd, many good breweries, and it’s amazing to me.”
The judges chose Novo Brazil’s pitch over a field of competitors who offered alternatives to traditional beer offerings. Partake Brewing, a Canadian non-alcoholic beer maker, and Prospect Cider Works, a Boston-based cidery, highlighted the diversity of products being introduced into the increasingly crowded beer market. Meanwhile, Fifty West Brewing Company and Shotgun Beer pitched their unique approaches to connecting with consumers via community programs and niche packaging.
During the competition, the five contestants pitched to a panel of judges that included Karmen Olson, director of emerging business partnerships at Craft Brew Alliance; Tom Bleigh, innovation brewmaster at Craft Brew Alliance; Matt Bardill, senior manager for beer at Total Wine & More; Kit Wanty-Lambert, vice president of marketing at O&W Inc.; and Martin Favela, the winner of Startup Brewery Challenge 7 co-founder of Border X Brewing.
“There was a lot of really rich debate about what the Startup Brewery Challenge is and how the landscape of craft has changed,” Olson said following the competition. “It’s not that Prospect Cider Works or Partake needed to be eliminated, but it was asking what they say about craft. It prompted a really interesting dialogue about the state of craft beer, where we’re headed, and how we’re responding to consumers.”
In the end, Novo Brazil’s distinct story won over the judges, Olson said. In his pitch, Pentagna discussed his uncle, one of the first craft beer makers in Brazil. After relocating to California, Pentagna has now brought a Brazilian approach to his brewing, importing equipment and using Brazilian sugarcane in his recipes.
“He has the potential to cross a lot of boundaries, almost like an ambassador of Brazilian culture,” Olson said.
Pentagna said he took to heart judge’s suggestions that the brand should continue to embrace its cultural roots and said he will explore new Brazilian spices, woods, spirits and brewing techniques in future brews.
“I think we were shy before,” he said. “That feedback is going to make us change. I was just talking to my guys while we were here [in Santa Monica], and we need to bring more Brazilian roots.”
Novo Brazil has grown rapidly, increasing production from 500 barrels to 5,000 barrels since last year, Pentagna said. The company has set a goal to double sales next year.
With the win, Pentagna took home $5,000, which he said he will invest in the company to help facilitate a planned nationwide expansion. He will also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Portland, Oregon, where he will meet with Craft Brew Alliance executives, tour the company’s production facility, participate in Widmer Brothers’ daily taste panel and receive business coaching from their team.