The Plans Lawson’s Lays Out for Controlled Growth

When you become a celebrated and revered brand name in your area, wanting to make more and more products to satisfy your fans’ needs can become a challenge.

Launching in a small garage brewhouse in 2008, Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Vermont saw its popularity surge quickly, which meant having to make some important decisions to help build the company without sacrificing quality or overspending. Sean Lawson explained to Brewer that making moves like contracting with nearby Two Roads to help produce more beer, especially its breakout hit Sip of Sunshine IPA, was key before and after opening its own destination production location in 2018.

“That enabled some really significant growth the next few years and put us in a position to build out this place that we have in Vermont, and we still rely on Two Roads to produce a nice chunk of our volume,” he said. Since opening, Lawson’s has already maxed out capacity in its Waitsfield spot, so the approach and strategic plan is to try and aim at growing sustainably after years of much more rapid growth.

“That sustainable growth range, which for us, is 5-10%,” Lawson said. “That would be fantastic for us. At least to keep pace with, or outperform, the craft beer market.

“If the market as a whole is going backward, that requires us to work really hard to outperform.”

Lawson figures and is anticipating that the new Hazy Rays IPA brand will add nicely to this year’s growth, as early pull-through numbers have shown very well.

READ MORE: Lawson’s Listens to Consumers to Make “First” Hazy IPA

“The last four years have been quite a ride,” he said, saying that the company did OK through the pandemic as only about a quarter of its business was in draft by March of 2020.

“Thanks to our brand being established and having really good distribution throughout the Northeast, we were more than able to make up sales at the taproom and on-premise with a big increase in retail sales,” he said. “We actually grew both volume and dollar sales in ‘20. In 2021, we launched our Little Sip IPAs as a new addition to the year-round lineup and so that really drove growth in 2021.”

Lawson’s also saw nearly flat growth for volume in 2022.

Along with Hazy Rays, new equipment to add nitrogen dosing for a Nitro Stout this fall was added this year. It will help bring new brands to the market that can help them move the needle in sales. Those plans have been in the works for a while and it means they are already getting ready to plan for 2024 this spring.

“We hold a distributor summit where all of our wholesalers come to us each fall in September,” Lawson said. “By that time we’ll have things nailed down. But there’s still a little bit of wiggle room on the limited releases.”

On the calendar for this year, but won’t see its release until this fall is a planned juicy, hazy Imperial IPA that will be in a similar vein to the new Hazy Rays brand.

“It’ll be a single-release shipment,” Lawson said. “So it’ll be around in the marketplace for about one to two months and then it’ll be gone.”

Coming this summer is a rebranded Pilsner with lime and salt called “ScragARita” along with the new release of Elderberry Gose.

“It’s a beer that we’ve put out before here locally … and it’s been incredibly well received,” Lawson said. “It was another one where we heard from fans—  both consumer insights and then our own fans that are looking for that fruited kettle-sour style.”

Photo courtesy Lawson’s Finest Liquids

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