The Blessings — and Challenges — Buchy Sees in Legion’s Growth

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the brewing community from across the US.
Brewer Magazine will share business and personal insights from Brewmasters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers, Sales Directors, QCQA Managers and others each weekend to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.

Phil Buchy, Owner​/​CEO​, Legion Brewing — Charlotte

​Despite a challenging few years for the craft brewery industry, Legion has expanded and continues to grow its business. Legion opened Trolley Barn Fermentory in July 2021, a third taproom in April 2022, and is now working to expand retail distribution outside Charlotte. During COVID when taprooms were shut down and the business was losing sales, Legion quickly scrapped its plans for another large taproom in favor of a 100,000-barrel brewhouse, high-speed canning line and smaller taproom. Buchy, who met with Brewer in late 2018, has expanded in his neighborhood of Charlotte and beyond and shared his thoughts.

BREWER: ​Why did you enter the craft beer industry and what makes you love being a part of it and staying in it?
​BUCHY: ​I fell in love with craft beer out in Colorado in the late ​’​90s and started homebrewing right away. Being an engineer, I loved the process of making beer. But, the business side of me really was intrigued by the fledgling craft beer business. Once I started, I caught the bug and went down the rabbit hole and couldn’t get enough. I constantly educated myself, tried many different things through homebrewing, and gained valuable experience. It eventually led me to blending of my real-life job as a contractor and my newly developed passion. I built a few high-level breweries for others as a General Contractor prior to opening Legion.​ ​I also had the opportunity to travel a lot. I’ve been across the entire USA and abroad. Every small town I went into, I noticed the community gathered around their local “watering hole” which quite often was their local brewery. Each space gave me a warm feeling—that I was included and part of their community. Beer is a drink of the everyman, and I am very much a part of that.

READ MORE: Staying Focused on ​Your Neighborhood For Success

​BREWER: ​What do you feel have been new challenges in your position that have helped push you and make you better at your job?
BUCHY: Legion’s great success is both a blessing and also very much a challenge. Success brings growth, which brings more employees. This means that I am responsible for leading and providing for our growing Legion team/family. I’m constantly pushing to improve my own personal ability to contribute to the brand’s growth, but also our employees’ journeys. If I wasn’t, I’d be holding the company back.

​BREWER: ​How has the definition of growth for your company evolved and how have you adjusted to be successful in that new definition? Why the switch to a production model and how is that the future focus?
BUCHY: I’m not sure the definition has changed. We want to do the best with what we have. Doing so leads to other great opportunities. If we feel those opportunities are right for us, we challenge ourselves to take those on. However, we are not actively searching for more. We do not have pre-set growth plans of X locations by X date, or X barrelage growth plans. Our mindset resides in our core values of craftsmanship and “giving a damn​.​” It pushes us to make sure we do our best every day to build the Legion brand for the future.

​BREWER: ​What strategic growth opportunity do you feel is still “out there” for your brand and how are you working on capitalizing on it this year? How are the new taprooms & Trolley Barn a part of those plans?
BUCHY: We’ve been restricted on brewing capacity for the last four years. We haven’t been able to produce enough beer to supply our restaurant and bar customers, and we didn’t have enough beer supply to consistently ship to grocery and convenience stores. Now that we have our new bigger production facility, we can get our product out into the market without the supply restrictions. The strategic growth for Legion this year is fulfilling this new demand.​ ​Our new taprooms increase our ability to showcase our creations and values directly to the local customer. We are all about our concept of providing “campfire hospitality” to our guests. If we do a good job of that, the guests who come to Legion taprooms will turn into friends and then ambassadors for our brand. This, in turn, creates more demand for our products across the city and beyond.

​BREWER: ​If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
BUCHY: Jump in with both feet. Hospitality and manufacturing are tough businesses with low margins. It takes commitment and involvement to raise the bar and even to survive.

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