​Testing New Markets ​To Gauge Growth

​Growing in a city that is still underserved and sticking to their guns in what they wanted to be as a brewery has paid off for Charlotte’s Wooden Robot. Owners Dan Wade and Josh Patton are overseeing a second facility which will be dedicated to it’s sour and aging programs while also seeing capacity increase with the goal for most of the product to flow from their taps.

“I lived in Oregon and Portland is a similar size city,” Wade said. “And we don’t have a quarter of the number of breweries that they have out there. So I think there’s a lot of room for growth.

“You’re seeing people are kind of shifting gears a little bit and doing more taproom focus and smaller systems and not everyone who is coming into town is looking at packaging and being in grocery stores statewide or anything like that. And I think that people are doing that right. That model of a small, neighborhood taproom focus … I think there’s a ton of room for growth in Charlotte for that.”

​Wooden Robot, located in the Charlotte South End ha​s a 15-barrel system ​with the capacity to do up to 5,000 barrels of beer.

Wade said he and Patton knew from the get go that ​they wanted to be farmhouse ​focused.

​”​We knew Sours were a big passion of ours so we wanted to focus on that stuff and then be able to have some interesting clean beers for mostly taproom as well​,” Wade said​. ​”​You always kind of have an idea of exactly what you want to do and you start out and sometimes some things catch ​on ​and somethings don’t. It took us a little while to get people really into Saisons and farmhouse styles here in Charlotte​. ​So it maybe didn’t catch ​on quite as quick as we had hoped. But we’ve stuck with it and people are coming around.​”

The city’s beer culture has matured, he noted.

“A lot of young people are coming in,” he pointed out. “So a lot of people are really willing to try new things. That kind of bank/corporate culture that was around five years ago has really started to shift and people are more focused on local restaurants .. and craft breweries [have become] really popular places to hang out.”

Wade’s experience working on a 100-barrel system at Rogue along with seeing the growth of a smaller brewery with his time at Swamp Head on their 10-barrel system and even doing QCQA and R&D on a 10-gallon system helped him develop Wooden Robot’s ideals.

“Wooden is that old-school artisan way of brewing and the Robot is that innovative, American spirit of brewing,” he said. “What I got to do at Swamp Head is really focus on the artistic side and with grad school (in Scotland at Heriot-Watt University) and then working at Rogue kind of give me a little more science experience.”

Although they focus on draft, bottles and cans can help drive some self-distribution plans outside of the Queen City. The first test that Wade and Patton are doing outside their home market is to debut some of their beers at ChurchKey in Washington DC on January 12.

“We’re going to kind of use that to gauge,” Wade said. Some other markets he said they plan to look to going to could be New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Portland, Maine as well as South Carolina’s Columbia, Charleston and Greenville.

“It kind of depends how much demand we see for some of our bottled product,” Wade said. “We’ve done some canning in the past with mobile canning. We haven’t done it in quite a few months just because we’re so space limited. But when we have our new location we should be able to free up enough space to work on that.”

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