How Creature Comforts Creates Distinct Markets

Although the Creature Comforts team launched in an era where laws were not favorable to drawing in new consumers to craft beer, the Athens, Georgia brewery found ways to succeed. Now, more than seven years later, the brewery is on the cusp of opening a new location far from home in Los Angeles while continuing to grow in its home state and beyond.

“When we opened, we didn’t know that we would have the success in terms of volume that we’ve had,” recalls CEO Chris Herron in an interview with Brewer for the July/August cover story. “We built a 12,000 square-foot brewery with a 30-barrel system, but largely because at that time, in Georgia, everything had to get sold through distributors. It was really just a matter of math in order for us to produce products, sell it at the reduced margins that you do through the distribution and retail channels.

You needed to make a certain amount in order for it to be reasonable and so there wasn’t a model for opening with a 5- or 3-barrel system back then, and so everybody was running their product through distribution.”

So Creature focused on craft-centric markets like Decatur and Athens and areas.

“We weren’t starting out with Kroger and Publix in mind … or big grocery. It was about three years later that we really started to move into that,” Herron said. “Our brand was absolutely grabbed hold up by that craft beer community, particularly Tropicalia because beer trading was so big back then. It became sort of the tool of the local traders to get Treehouse or Other Half or whatever it was they were trading for.”

Tropicalia was a really unique IPA for the region at that time, Herron said and he still thinks it’s a relatively unique IPA.

READ MORE: Creature Comforts Expands Distribution to 1st Market Outside Georgia: Charleston, South Carolina

“It was different from what a lot of people have experienced down here,” he explained, pointing out that Tropicalia is the No. 1 SKU in Georgia in terms of craft beer now by a pretty significant margin.

“It’s now moved beyond just our beer nerd and craft beer connoisseur community,” Herron said. “They really helped elevate, quite honestly, through beer trading and sharing it with their friends, and helped create that into a mainstream brand.”

Now, the brand sees two distinct markets — the core brand pieces along with continuing to be innovative while catering to the connoisseur and those looking to find new brands constantly.

“We’ve had to really identify that we’re two different businesses inside of one brand,” Herron said. “So we operate with sort of one model that is really focused on what we call ‘efficient and effective,’ and that’s year-round and seasonals. That’s our more mass-produced — for lack of a better word — it’s still not that mass-produced even at our size. “Then we have this other side, and that is what we call our ‘small-group products,’ our limited-release portfolio. We’re really still trying to speak very clearly into the ideas of how do we educate and excite consumers, and talk to our craft beer community at large and really do stuff that’s exciting and unique and the same stuff that helps rise craft to begin with.

“We’re constantly looking at our business truly as almost two different businesses now. That distinction has helped us, I think, be able to maintain a good base with the craft beer consumer. That sort of diehard fan. While allowing us to recognize and allow a brand like Tropicalia to spread its wings and become a more mainstay in a lot of homes and fridges on a regular basis.”

With Avengers drinking their beer on the silver screen and a taproom opening in California, it can be hard to remember that Creature comes from an area where beer wasn’t allowed to be served across its own taproom bar until 2017 and Herron said launching a Berliner Weisse in a can was a first for their region. So Herron said they still embrace creativity while driving those cores to a general market.

Photo courtesy Creature Comforts

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