Charlotte, North Carolina-based Sycamore Brewing is “living in fast forward,” according to vice president of sales Archie Gleason. The Kenny Chesney lyric appears apt for the 4-year-old craft brewery, which plans to double its beer and cider production to 9,000 barrels by the end of the year. And in 2019, it hopes to double again.
Driving much of the growth for Sycamore — which was founded by husband-and-wife Justin and Sarah Brigham in 2013 — is flagship Mountain Candy IPA and the company’s seasonal offerings, which account for about 40 and 35 percent of its volume, respectively. The company’s direct-to-consumer taproom sales are also “significant,” accounting for about a third of its annual volume.
Even more volume growth is projected for 2019, as the company eyes 20,000 barrels. That aggressive forecast is built on the notion that a network of beer wholesalers in North Carolina and South Carolina will expand the brand. Sycamore had previously self-distributed its products.
“We have tons of brand recognition, we have a lot of people in this market with an affinity for the brand,” Gleason said. “And now we’re going to be able to put a distributor sales force of 35 behind our brand, so that’s what leads to my really bullish projections.”
In April, Sycamore began building its North Carolina distribution network, starting in the northwestern part of the state with R. H. Barringer and the Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill areas with Mims Distributing Co.
This month, Sycamore began a rollout in South Carolina, beginning in Myrtle Beach via Better Brands. In the coming weeks, the company’s beer will be available in Rock Hill (Comer Distributing), Greenville (GreenCo Beverage), Columbia (Beverage South) and Charleston (Southern Eagle).
Finally, effective December 3, Sycamore’s offerings will be sold in its home market of Charlotte through Adams Beverage as well as in Gastonia via Standard Distributing.
Although gaining share of mind in a larger portfolio of brands may be challenging, Gleason told Brewbound that the company’s growth trajectory would be “a lot more conservative” had it not partnered up. He added that having wholesaler support will help Sycamore grow its chain convenience and grocery store business as well as gain on-premise placements in restaurants and event venues.
Currently, Sycamore’s biggest customer is the Harris Teeter grocery store chain. Gleason believes having wholesalers with a daily presence in those stores will also help grow sales.
“Our new partner is in every store seven days a week merchandising and the biggest stores they’re in twice on Saturdays and extra time on Sundays,” he said. “Just being in stock on the shelf is going to give us that much more opportunity there.”
Meanwhile, Gleason sees an opportunity to grow Sycamore’s presence in convenience stores, where the brand had been “basically absent.” Sycamore plans to offer two core products, Southern Girl blonde ale and Sun Grown lager, in 16 oz. single-serve cans at a price point that will allow retailers to offer “twofer” deals (two for $3 or two for $4).
Sycamore also plans to release its first multipack — an 8-pack of 16 oz. cans — in the spring. Gleason said the company is still determining which brands will go into the packs. In explaining the decision to offer 16 oz. multipacks, Gleason said his company’s canning line only packages 16 oz. cans, which are popular in the region. He also said those packs will not be available to all retailers, and instead the Sycamore will target craft-centric retailers.
“Craft is still not something that needs to be everywhere,” he said. “If they’re selling King Cobra and Magnum, they don’t need Sycamore.”
Nevertheless, Gleason believes Mountain Candy IPA is poised to capture more placements in local restaurants.
“Those are going to be the type of places where an approachable IPA can take hold and see real nice velocity,” he said. “It’s not a chain sports bar with 40 handles in it, but that piece is getting sliced so many different ways. You’re going to sell some, but you’re not going to sell as much as if you were in a restaurant that’s packed seven days a week with six handles.”
Gleason added that Sycamore’s spinoff hard cider brand, Wild Blossom, has a lot of “runway” to grow. The brand officially launched with two offerings — Rosé and Brut — in August, and currently holds about 150 placements in off-premise retailers and about 30 on-premise accounts.
“We think it can hold some handles,” he said.