Growth Through Acquisition Not Just For Big Breweries

Growth can mean growing pains. For Adventure Brewing, it meant nearly tripling its production and doubling its distribution after an early-year acquisition of neighboring Blue & Gray Brewing.

Now, the Fredericksburg, Virginia-based brewery, which opened in 2014 has two tasting rooms in the area — the same number of distributors as well.

Because of the purchase of the veteran Blue & Gray brand from Jeff Fitzpatrick — which became finalized in September — Adventure took over the distribution rights to both brands. Both are with different wholesalers, which means two different companies distribute Adventure’s beer in the same market. Any beers Adventure makes that are formerly Blue & Gray products are picked up by one company and the other still works with Adventure products only, although both are now packaged as Adventure brands.

“That’s where twice the work comes in,” said co-owner Stan Johnson. “In the long run we will end up collapsing where we can to save money and effort, but for now we work with two distribution companies working parallel with each other in this area.”

Adventure — which figures to finish around 1,400 barrels this year with the boost from a 3-barrel system to adding a 20-barrel brewhouse — has a footprint that surrounds the counties of Fredericksburg.

“One thing we realized very quickly was the amount of work,” Johnson said. “It doubled with the second location. We doubled the workload. We get some leverage on the financial tracking side and it allowed us to expand the beer making side but with two tasting rooms, all of the effort to run those got spread out.”


The transition has taken all year, Johnson said. Blue & Gray was more of a brewpub while Adventure began as a tasting room with food trucks. Johnson admitted that the restaurant business is not what Adventure wanted to be a part of and after the transition began, the now Adventure South taproom — the former Blue & Gray brewpub — started to pare down the food menu while molding the new area into more of what Adventure wanted.

“We are dealing with expectations of how things were done in the past,” Johnson said of consumer interaction through the process. “There is no way around that.

“We are trying things, we are learning, it’s clearly an adventure,” he added, with no pun intended. “We have been trying new things.”

Turnover among the brewery has shifted as well. Many Blue & Gray employees stayed on during the transition, including those in brewing, bottling and in the kitchen, but all have moved on to other jobs Johnson said.

Also gone is Fitzpatrick. A well-respected owner and craft beer advocate for the area, Fitzpatrick, 51, died suddenly of cancer in October. Johnson doesn’t believe the sale had anything to do with the transaction since the process began well over a year prior.

“He was an important member of the community here,” he said. “He brewed beer here when no one else would or could. We always respect him for that.”

The amount of beer has gone up and the plan is to push more product out the door and into the off-premise market.

It was all a part of the plan from the start for Adventure, which in its’ 5-year plan wanted to increase capacity. It just happened to come about getting new equipment in a different way than expected by buying another brewery all together.

“We bought the brand and equipment, so we look at it as a production capacity increase,” Johnson said.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.