Wormtown Brewery Co-Founder Sells Remaining Stake, Exits Company

A group consisting of four former New England beer wholesalers now own the vast majority of Massachusetts’ Wormtown Brewery.

The beer company, which opened in Worcester, Mass. in 2010, today announced that co-founder Tom Oliveri has sold his remaining interest in the brewery to three former beer distribution executives – Richard Clarke, Jay Clarke and Kary Shumway.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The new partners, who will own a minority stake in Wormtown via “The Clarke Group” entity, previously ran Clarke Distributors Inc. in Keene, New Hampshire, before selling that company to Bellavance Beverage Co. and Great State Beverages Inc. earlier this year.

Oliveri’s decision to sell his stake in the company comes about three years after he, along with Wormtown co-founder and master brewer Ben Roesch, sold a majority interest in the brewery to David Fields, the previous owner of Auburn, Mass.-based beer wholesaler Consolidated Beverages (which was sold to Taunton, Mass.-based Quality Beverage in 2013).

“The Clarke’s have been great personal friends for almost 20 years,” Fields, Wormtown’s majority owner and managing partner, said via a press release. “Richard and Jay were the first guys to introduce me to craft beer.”

For his part, Oliveri – who also owns and operates three bars and restaurants — said his decision to sell the remaining interest in Wormtown was driven in part by a desire to maximize the value of those shares.

“Craft beer as a whole is reaching its peak and, in my opinion, will level out a bit,” he said. “You always want to sell at the peak, and I was given an offer I could not refuse.”

Oliveri added that the multiple paid by The Clarke Group to acquire a minority stake was “7 times” greater than what Fields paid for a majority stake in 2014.

“You always have a number in your head for any business you own, and if someone knocks on your door and offers you that number, it’s tough to walk away,” he said.

In addition to bringing on a new group of minority partners, Wormtown has also committed to building a 10-barrel brewery and taproom inside of the former Clarke Distributors facility in Keene.

According to Fields, the warehouse spans approximately 40,000 sq. ft., and Wormtown will occupy a majority of the space.

“Our goal is to have about 3,000 barrels of capacity from the start,” he told Brewbound.

Wormtown will brew a variety of experimental beers – including barrel-aged offerings, sour beers and New England-style IPAs – at the New Hampshire location, and Fields said he expects the facility to open in early to mid-2018.

Wormtown has grown production significantly since Fields joined in 2014. That year, the company produced just 2,700 barrels of beer. In 2015, the company grew production to about 7,800 barrels, a figure that grew more than 100 percent in 2016, to approximately 15,000 barrels, according to Fields.

To meet growing demand for its products, the company recently invested $2 million to expand capacity to about 37,000 barrels annually, and Fields said he expects to make as much as 27,000 barrels of beer in 2017.

Wormtown beers are primarily distributed in Massachusetts – the company sells to a limited number of on-premise retailers in Rhode Island – but it will begin distributing more broadly throughout New Hampshire in 2018, Fields added.

Oliveri, meanwhile, won’t be leaving the brewing industry entirely. Using proceeds from the sale of the brewery, he purchased equipment assets that were owned by Wormtown and currently in operation at Worcester’s Flying Dreams Brewing. That company is located in a separate area of the “Peppercorns Grille & Tavern” that Oliveri owns and Flying Dreams has agreed to an equipment lease that will last for “at least” three more years.

“In the future, if that space serves as an incubator for breweries in Worcester, that is awesome,” he told Brewbound. “When I decide to retire and sell my restaurant, this adds a dimension to the sale. You have the option of a restaurant and brewery or a brewpub.”

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