The Lessons Dennis Thies Learned as Green Man Celebrates 25 Years

Now owned for nearly half of the company’s existence, Dennis Thies of Green Man Brewery admits he has made blunders in the 12 years he’s been at the helm of the veteran Asheville, North Carolina brewery.

Speaking with Brewer on a variety of topics as the brand celebrates its 25th anniversary on St. Patrick’s Day each year (Thies, being as he said ‘being a redhead Irish guy,’ adopted the holiday as the unofficial birthday party each year for the brand that was originally started by Joe and Joan Eckert in 1997) Thies​ shared the highs and lows of the brand since taking over as owner in 2010.

​”​It’s kind of an iconic brand so we’re very fortunate and we haven’t messed that up,” he said. “The beer has been pretty damn good for a long time. I’ve had great brewers along the way. So the early focus for me was to get into packaging bottles. We’ve got to distribute this great brand.”

For years Thies hit the road and pitched the brand.

“We spent a lot of years building our distribution network and getting distribution in seven states now, and really focusing on that,” he recalled. “But all the while our taproom was just continuing to soar and grow. Last year, we had our best year ever. We built the Green Man from the ground up and that was a very ambitious project.”

Thies said the focus has shifted from distribution to expansive taprooms for which a brand like Green Man can really thrive because it’s a very approachable, inviting brand with a core of staples consumers know. Thies is OK with selling to a local, older crowd.

“How many times have you gone to a brewery, gotten a beer, and wondered why you paid $7 for this,” he said. “We took advantage of the iconic status of Green Man. Initially through distribution and then coming to the realization of the natural evolution of taprooms.”

The brewery just acquired a piece of property next to its Dirty Jack’s spot in October.

READ MORE: The Factors to Set a Price Point for ​Each Pour

“I’ve hired an executive chef and we’re going to open a tavern with a great menu that’s going to be centered around a proper fish and chips and have to-go, delivery and service to two taprooms and eventually have a rooftop deck in there with spirits so that’s very exciting.”

​It’s a different model than what Thies started with and the pandemic “leveled the playing field” as the brand was in decline a tad from 2016-2018 and it has grown more than ever while new innovations like adding a hard ginger beer and root beer along with plans for a new NA seltzer infused with THC is planned.

Thies admitted mistakes have been made along the way, mostly because he was hard-headed.

“I like to think that I was ahead of the curve on so many things by buying a brewery in 2010 … I mean, who does that? Everybody thought it was a terrible idea,” he said with a laugh. “But I completely missed the can thing. It was right in front of my face. I’m like nope. That one I messed up real good. It cost me a lot of money.

“I was invested into a 30-head KHS bottle filler that was well north of a million bucks. But I never saw it, man just didn’t see it. The first time I found Dale’s Pale Ale in 2005 I was insulted. I was saying, ‘Really? Cans? Come on man.’ So that’s my old ass shining through there.”

Green Man just decommissioned its bottling line at the end of February 2022.

“We are going 100% cans,” he said. “We should have done that a long time ago.”

The second thing that Theis admits was a misstep was being such a hardass about distribution.

“That was the focus, getting distribution and opening new states,” he said about when he took over. “I’m not a big push guy and I feel like it needs to come to you. We just spent a lot of years developing our distribution footprint that has borne us a lot of fruit, but at the same time, it’s such a fickle thing and having to rely on distributors to grow barrelage that’s not nearly as profitable as your taproom.

“A guy up in the northeast [keeps it in-house] and that’s huge. You’ve got to go there to get his beer, that is huge. That is the thing.”

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