Is Going ‘Beyond Beer’ Worth it for Your Brand?

Creating avenues of sales to newer consumer bases has been on the mind of most brewery owners. Now more than a decade in, Against the Grain’s Sam Cruz told Brewer that, yes, there are opportunities there, but are they worth the chase?

The Louisville, Kentucky brewery has gone down some paths with Kombucha, Seltzers, and such, but the biggest question is always quality.

“We’ve made a fairly high quality (seltzer) that I was pretty proud of,” he said recently during an interview for the May/June cover story celebrating the 50th issue of Brewer and a part of its 10th anniversary. “These were really small, taproom-based things.

“Then we made one that was not super exciting to me. It was kind of mediocre if you ask me.”

Hinging their brand on the quality of the product was important, Cruz said.

READ MORE: Against the Grain Brewery – Interview with Sam Cruz, Co-Founder

“That’s all the way from the ingredients that we get a hold of, our processes being refined, to the packaging, the sale experience … everything that goes along with it,” he said. “If we don’t hit some of those key points of quality, it’s really hard to see further investment in that.”

There was a time when Cruz would say that Against the Grain could do anything, and he still wholly believes that they could.

“But we won’t,” he said. “Because if we try to do everything, then we probably won’t be good at anything. So we’ve really kind of set ourselves in a place where we want to pursue producing quality beer and stay true to what we are. We’re a brewery.

“We’ve had music venues and sandwich shops, we opened that shit and closed that shit, and ultimately, it all goes back to one core belief that we are brewers, we make beer.”

Does that mean the company is not going to produce other beverages? Not necessarily.

“We’re always in an R&D mindset to where we’re thinking about how we can innovate in the beverage space,” Cruz said. “While not seemingly not innovation, something that we’re kind of circling back to, we’re going to introduce a couple sodas over at our place at Slugger Field (the ballpark for the Triple-A Louisville Bats baseball team).”

Sodas, he said, will be the non-alcoholic and self-made option instead of investing in creating NA beer.

“The NA beer space is something that I doubt we’ll ever get into,” he said. “Our NA beer is root beer. We don’t have the equipment in-house and are not willing to make the investment to produce a truly high-quality NA beer.

“We could do something kind of half-assed but nobody wants that.”

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