Despite selling all of its beer within Michigan’s borders, Short’s Brewing grew production 51 percent in 2014, with three of its core products generating much of the surge through the company’s distribution channels.
The brewery, which is headquartered in Bellaire and operates a second facility in Elk Rapids, closed out the year selling 34,443 barrels, it announced this week, up from 22,866 the year prior. According to one report from MLive.com, the growth was good enough to solidify the company’s spot as the state’s third largest brewery, past New Holland and behind Bell’s and Founders.
Brian Beckwith, Short’s CFO, said the growth was driven primarily by distribution sales made possible by a recent brewery expansion.
“With the expansion this past summer, we have some excess capacity,” said Beckwith. “We’ve never able to produce to demand.”
As part of the $5 million expansion the brewery announced at the beginning of last year, which called for the company to double capacity, Short’s was able to update some of its brewing and packaging equipment and installed a new wastewater pre-treatment system and bottling line.
Sales also grew at its original pub location, said Beckwith, as the brewpub has gained in popularity during the shoulder seasons.
Though the company touts an extensive lineup of offerings, Soft Parade, Huma Lupa Licious, and Local’s provided the biggest sparks, combining for 49 percent of the company’s overall production on the year. Broken down by brand, Soft Parade accounted for 22 percent of all production, Huma was 19 percent, and Local’s, 8 percent.
Now, to even further invigorate those core brands, Short’s is planning a bit of a packaging and marketing refresh, which is expected to focus heavily on the company’s “Michigan Only, Michigan Forever,” motto.
“We’re definitely going to try to utilize that going forward, placing it sort of at the forefront of the marketing of our beers,” added Beckwith.
But the model of selling everything in one state could present its own unique challenges, Beckwith acknowledged, namely, plateauing once a certain peak is reached. He said it’s something the company considers and discusses routinely, though it’s hard to predict what that ceiling might be, especially as the space becomes more crowded.
“I think it’s definitely becoming more challenging with the growth of the industry and the addition of all the new breweries,” he said.
So, rather than focus on hitting that undefined cap, Beckwith says the company is focusing on what it can control.
“The biggest thing we’ve done recently is really to focus on customer service, and part of that would include – we recently sat down with our distributor to look at trucking routes, service by their reps and our reps,” he said. “They’ve hired additional staff, we’ve hired additional staff, so we can do one-on-one meetings with the accounts and really focus on everybody.”
The company also recently went from two deliveries per week to five in the 7-county region its brewery is located, he added.
Short’s also has plans to grow Starcut Ciders, a separate cider brand the company launched in November 2014. Currently, those cider products – the brainchild of head brewer Tony Hansen – are only available on draft at the pub, but Short’s plans to roll it out gradually for draft distribution in February with bottles expected to arrive later in the year.
All told, the company anticipates producing up to 1,500 barrels of Starcut Cider in 2015, according to Beckwith. Beer wise, Short’s production is forecasted to surpass 45,000 barrels in 2015.