After a few uncertain months, Smuttynose Brewing Co. is on the mend in Hampton, N.H.
In March, Provident Bank bought the brewery for $8.25 million at a foreclosure auction, selling it a week later to New Hampshire-based venture capital firm Runnymede Investments. Rich Lindsay, formerly of Boston Beer Co., took over as CEO.
Lindsay cites three factors as contributors to the brewery’s recent decline. An influx of new craft beer brands, rising costs for the company after its new brewery and restaurant opened in 2014 (he uses the term “over-leverage”), and the lack of a canning line all precipitated the sale, says Lindsay. In the current climate, legacy brands like Smuttynose, which sold its first beer in 1994, have a harder time standing out.
“The market for beverages has really gone experimental, it’s gone local, and it’s gone new,” says Lindsay. “People are doing a lot more sharing. They’re continuing to pick beverages for occasions, which they’ve always done, but even more so now thinking of, ‘Who am I going to share this with? Does this need to be a talking point?’ That dynamic works against brands that have built a pretty loyal following over time.”
Hoping to revitalize the brand, Smutty’s new owners are leaning into longtime best-sellers like Finestkind IPA and Old Brown Dog brown ale, as well as embracing new beer styles. The brewery recently released Mysterious Haze, a 6.7 percent double dry-hopped New England IPA, and Whole Lotta Lupulin, a double IPA clocking at 8.6 percent. Both are fragrant, juicy, and on trend, and are big departures from overtly bitter Smuttynose legacy brews like Big A IPA
“We needed a few liquids like that, more of the mainstream varieties that are occupying the market,” says Lindsay.
Also new are monthly sour releases — the latest, Plum Cinnamon Sour, was targeted for the holiday season. A new temporary canning line gets the brews into customers’ preferred packaging.
Not all of Smutty’s updates are sexy: Lindsay says the company recently made a seven-figure investment in wastewater treatment, in an effort to increase the brewery’s capacity. A larger, permanent canning line is also on the way. And the company is also fighting the stigma from its tough year.
“We continued to get feedback that people thought we had gone under,” says Lindsay. “Our biggest challenge is still just the number of competitors that are out there. We have to engage our consumers in a way that they think of us when it comes to the beer occasion.”
Smuttynose Brewing Co. is located at 105 Towle Farm Road in Hampton, N.H.
Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.