Bear Republic Focuses on Sustainability, Controlled Growth

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Focusing on its home front of Sonoma County in Northern California, Bear Republic is sinking its funds into local consumers, sustainability and modernization.

All of it, said Brewmaster Richard Norgrove, is in the brewery’s plans for the next four years. Norgrove said after seeing Bear Republic’s volume production leap as high as 45 percent in one year, that wasn’t how he wanted to see his brewery grow.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not sustainable for us to do that in terms of people,” he said. “We want to control our growth and manage it. We also want to have an exclusivity in our products since we know how we want to grow. It allows us to work with our distributors and what focus they can put on our products.”

That’s not saying that Bear Republic will halt at its volume of 85,000 barrels in 2015 — which places it 44th in the country in terms of sold volume. It just means that Norgrove doesn’t want to see growth for Bear Republic grow past 15-17 percent by the last quarter of 2019, which would still be around a 33 percent increase overall of what it has today.

With a second brewpub planned to open in early 2017 and the addition of a state-of-the-art EcoVolt wastewater pre-treatment plant, Norgrove feels that Bear Republic can still service all of its distributors while still giving something special to fans that have been with the company all 20 years.

The treatment plant is nearly complete Norgrove said in late March to Brewer Magazine. Once functional, he said Bear Republic could double for triple production at the production facility in Cloverdale, California.

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The EcoVolt system can treat water from the brewery affluent and, according to a press release from EcoVolt, a brewery like Bear Republic can save from $100,000 to more than $1 million a year. The process eliminates aeration energy requirements and sludge hauling, minimizes sewer fees, and generates clean heat and power. An average EcoVolt system can also cut a facility’s carbon footprint substantially, facilitating its certification as a green producer.

Recently-discovered electricity-generating organisms convert wastewater pollutants into electricity. This electricity is funneled to a circuit, and back into an electrode, where a different set of micro-organisms convert electricity and carbon dioxide into methane fuel – forming a complete treatment process. The methane can be used on-site for clean power and heat production.

Norgrove said Bear Republic and Lagunitas are the only craft beer breweries that he knows of that are installing the systems so far.

Bear Republic will have a closer presence to San Francisco in 2017 once the second brewpub will open, Norgrove said. Currently, the Healdsburg, California brewpub is about 70 miles from the Bay Area. Now, with a new Rohnert Park, California location, 20 miles will be shaved off a trip and put it in near Sonoma State University..

“One of the challenges we get from our locals is that driving up from the Bay Area, if someone wants to take a day trip, an hour to 90 minute drive is the threshold, driving all the way to us is 2 hours,” Norgrove said. “This puts us closer to the Bay Area and right in between Lagunitas and Russian River for us.”

The opening of the brewpub, which will produce an additional 3,500 bbls of exclusive beers to the facility, will help “raise the glass ceiling” for a lot of Bear Republic’s brewers.

“We can put out 5-10,000 barrels a year that people might not get on the east coast,” Norgrove said.

The new brewhouse will be a 4-vessel Germanic style brewery with a focus on making stylistically correct beers. “It takes the playground and now allows us to have a completely different special flavor profile just for the location,” Norgrove said. “We will still have Bear Republic products, but we will have a complete lineup of just stuff we can’t do on our current system.”

Once the new brewpub is open, the original brewpub will be shut down for a few months and refreshed. “It’s old and tired, and people can come in and see what a brewpub looked like 20 years ago,” Norgrove said. “There have been so many new cool things that people do.”

The new location, part of a $1.5 million overhaul, is adjoined to a lake. Along with beer and pub food, Bear Republic will expand on its catering side along with bread and sausages. More than 60 jobs will be added once the project is complete. It’s a process that began more than a year ago.

“We got bogged down in all the necessary things needed to increase production,” Norgrove said. “A lot of the focus on what we were doing in terms of marketing for the last year has to get through the drought.

“This is really great timing and thrown excitement into what Bear Republic is doing.”


This article is a direct editorial from Brewer Magazine, not controlled or sponsored by Cambrian Innovation or EcoVolt.

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