Melvin Brewing plans to open at least four new brewpubs in 2018, including outposts in craft beer strongholds San Diego and Denver.
Melvin sales director Ted Whitney told Brewbound that the Wyoming-headquartered cult beer maker has signed a letter of intent on a 5,500 sq. ft. space in downtown San Diego with the hope of opening a 7- or 10-barrel brewery there next summer. He added that the company has prioritized finding a space in Denver.
“We have people in Denver about every other week scouting areas and looking at leases,” he said. “We’re trying really hard.”
In a conversation with Brewbound, Melvin brewpub engineer Jamie Morris explained that the company wants to seed brewpubs in the best beer markets in the country.
“We feel that our beer is competitive,” he said, “and we want to be right where the epicenter of the craft beer world is as well.”
Melvin, which currently operates two Wyoming brewpubs and an outpost in Bellingham, Washington, is also pursuing brewpub locations in Olympia, Washington, and Eureka, Missouri, according to Whitney. He added that the company is attempting to establish a local presence in its new markets as well as “bolster existing sales.”
“Local, as much as it has nothing to do with how the beer tastes, does play into people’s minds,” he said. “In the coming years, I think that will be more and more important to consumers.”
Morris explained that Melvin is opening the new locations with a “hub-and-spoke model” in which the larger brewpubs feed smaller tasting rooms within a 45-minute radius. For example, Melvin’s recently opened Bellingham brewpub will supply beer to a 950 sq. ft. tasting room in nearby Fairhaven, which the company hopes to open by May 1.
“We hope to have another one or two spokes off of the Bellingham location,” Morris added.
A proposed pub in Olympia, Washington, would ship beer to tap houses in Tacoma and potentially Seattle, according to Morris.
Meanwhile, Morris said Melvin is working with one of its investors in the St. Louis area to open a brewery and restaurant in Eureka, Missouri.
The brewpub expansions are being funded through taking on new investors and “minimal debt” while also signing longer-term lease agreements with its landlords, Morris said.
“Instead of us buying the kitchen equipment, we’ve been able to get creative with landlords and have them completely outfit the restaurant,” he explained. “And, of course, we’ll pay an inflated rent, but we keep our cash in the bank.”
Morris added that the “spokes,” such as Fairhaven, will be funded by their respective brewpubs.
In an interview during the annual Brewbound Session in Santa Monica, Melvin founder Jeremy Tofte said the outposts will have their own identities, and, in some cases, unique brewing styles. The Bellingham pub, he added, will brew some Swedish-style beers.
“Each place has to have its own personality, like our place in Bellingham, like Thai Me Up in Jackson, like the taproom in Alpine, Wyoming,” he said. “They all have pieces of Melvin, but they don’t have to be a cookie cutter whatsoever.”
Helping foster those unique experiences will be the older buildings housing them, Morris said. The company is considering older buildings under renovation, including a theater in Denver and an automotive shop in Olympia.
“These places have a really cool flair to them, and we want to bring some of that back when we’re in those facilities,” he said. “Not just erase that but embrace it.”
However, not all of Melvin’s new markets will be receiving brewpubs. Melvin, which plans to double its production in 2018 from 20,000 barrels this year, is looking to expand its footprint into South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico and western Kansas by the end of Q1 2018. Whitney said the new markets will help Melvin realize some of its excess capacity.
“Instead of staring at empty tanks and sitting in a hallway with echoes, we thought we’d start opening up new markets that could soak up some of that capacity come summertime,” he said.