Five years after imagining the company’s first beers with a homebrew kit in his garage, Knee Deep Brewing co-owner Jeremy Warren will depart the company he founded — and tattooed on his arm — to launch an entirely new brewery.
After announcing his “separation” plans on Facebook, Warren confirmed to Brewbound that he is selling his stake in the company to current CEO and majority owner Jerry Moore. Upon completion of the transaction, Moore will wholly own Knee Deep, the pair said.
In explaining his departure, Warren said simply that he no longer envisions accomplishing the things he set out to achieve when he founded Knee Deep in 2010.
“It got to a point where it made sense to move forward in a new direction,” he said. “It’s grown pretty rapidly and I just think, the things I need to do I won’t be able to do at the company.”
He declined to specify what brought him to that realization. But regarding growth, Knee Deep has embarked on a number of market expeditions – it most recently tapped Oregon and Massachusetts – and is now sold in 15 states. In 2014, the company also ditched its 960 sq. ft. facility in Lincoln, Calif. in favor of an 18,000 sq. ft. operation in nearby Auburn. With the additional capacity, the company is on track to produce 11,000 barrels in 2015, up considerably from the 2,000 it squeezed out of the tiny Lincoln brewery in 2013.
Warren started the company with a mere $15,000, he said, but wound up only owning a minority stake after Moore came in to buy out all of the company’s original investors.
Both Moore and Warren compared the end of their business relationship to a marriage.
“Partnerships are kind of like marriages,” said Moore. “It’s very common as a company grows, as a company goes from small to medium – we’re still on the low end of medium – sometimes what you evolve into is something you’re not completely comfortable with.”
The two partners wouldn’t offer any additional clues to help explain the sudden split, but Warren dispelled speculation that the desire to sell his interest back to Moore involved any kind of future transaction with a larger strategic or private equity buyer.
As for the future of Knee Deep, Moore said the company would continue to produce the same beers and retain the Knee Deep brand name. No other Knee Deep employees are expected to leave the company at this time.
“The duties that [Warren] had will be absorbed by people currently on our staff and we’ll see what happens moving forward,” Moore added.
In addition to founding the company, Warren served as its brewmaster and brewery operations manager, he told Brewbound.
Regarding his newest venture, Warren said he plans to open a new brewery in the Sacramento area. He said the brewery will focus not only on the types of hop forward IPAs that helped Knee Deep earn a following, but also on sour and barrel-aged offerings. Warren said the company has a facility picked out, equipment “pretty much ready to be on order” and some “very talented” and experienced individuals joining the team, though he wouldn’t share who.
“Everything is already kind of structured,” he said. “Just waiting for the legal stuff, of me leaving Knee Deep before we start inking everything down.”
From there, Warren said he plans to tattoo the undisclosed but decided name of his newest venture on his arm, opposite the Knee Deep ink that adorns his other.