How PHX Beer Has Worked to Rebuild a ‘New’ Brand

A little more than two years into its new name and new ownership, PHX Beer Co. is finally starting to see its original plan come into shape.

Led by Brewery Director Adam Wojcik, the Phoenix-based brewery changed hands in the summer of 2019. Adapting from the Phoenix Ale House locations, Wojcik said the plan was for about 70% of sales to come through the brewery’s three on-premise locations: its main production taproom, an area restaurant location they run along with an airport bar as well. The pandemic flipped that plan on its head and the brewery quickly switched to having to find cans to help increase production, which ended with about 2,200 barrels made in 2020. That number ended about 80% higher in 2021 as Wojcik explained that additional fermentation was brought online for supplying its wholesaler and off-premise sales while more keg sales have begun once again thanks to a sales team that is helping boost interest in the “new” brewery in the area.

READ MORE: PHX Beer Co. to Debut this September

Now, working with a statewide distributor, the company is seeing more growth although a majority of sales come within the Phoenix area.

Wojcik, who spent seven years with Lagunitas as a National Accounts Director, said he’s had to adapt somewhat himself to what growth can mean and he’s switched a lot in his perspective.

“This is much different, you have to get creative in resources in the very beginning,” he said during a chat in March at the brewery.

The pandemic had positives and negatives.

Having a lot of volume for on-premise is a key to give a sampling opportunity to consumers.

“That’s where people are gonna see your beer for the first time,” he explained. “Then hopefully, they will see it at the grocery store and purchase the beer.

“We had no on-premises representation [during the pandemic]. Our restaurant was open and closed during that time, but we got very little. Everyone flooded the grocery stores, and I kind of went back to the well. We pitched hard to the grocery store chains to get distribution, and it really saved us. Now everything’s opened back up and [we are] just trying to reverse that trend a little bit.”

The plan has been to keep the grocery store sales that they have, and then get back to more draft.

“Draft is the most profitable package you have,” Wojcik said. “When you’re just selling package, it’s really hard to generate a positive bottom-line number, which helps you add employees, take care of employees, and all that good stuff.”

PHX Beer has scored some big accounts in the state that are just on-premise, and Wokcik said some are “diamonds in the rough.”

“You walk in and you wouldn’t think they would do that much volume, but they do,” he said. “We’ve landed a couple of those, which has been a huge help.

“And our sales staff has hit the ground running by just focusing on draft and on-premise. It’s coming back around for sure. I think we ended (2021) probably with a 50/50 split for on-premise. So now it’s just trying to continue to put that pie back in our favor.”

Although the sales marketplace is a totally different landscape for craft beer than it was a decade ago, he said everyone’s facing struggles.

“You’ve just got to be smart in how you grow it,” he said. “Our flagship is our IPA and that’s our foundation and that’s how we pay our bills. Then the rest of it is either icing on the cake or brands that are kind of sitting in the bullpen ready to go out next.”

He laughed and admitted he was going to speak out of two sides of his mouth when it came to a brewery philosophy.

“I mean, I think our brewers really do enjoy brewing IPAs, and that’s about half the market,” Wojick said. “We took the approach of the IPA being just a true West Coast-style … a welcoming beer to PHX Beer company. If the IPA is great then it kind of builds that trust for people to buy the next ones.

“Then we’ll get into our hazies and we have a tropical … we’re going to be doing a juicy here pretty soon. Even though we are data-driven, that data kind of favors what we want to do anyway. We want to be true to what we want to do, and these guys do a great job brewing beer and are artists and we give them a degree of flexibility to do what they want.

“But there’s a sweet spot for that, too. We’re not gonna brew 10,000 barrels of sour this year, it’s just not a place where it works.”

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