|Boston Beer co-founder Jim Koch (left) with ChuckAlek co-founders Marta Jankowska & Grant Fraley. Photo taken at the Great American Beer Festival by Don Ayres. PHOTO: Westcoastersd.com|
LOCAL BREWERY IN THE NEWS--The Great American Beer Festival is obviously a special time for people in the craft beer community. With 49,000 people flocking to the festival over three days, big breweries get a chance to pour their beers for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to try them. Brewers also wait with baited breath as judging panels decide which breweries go home with new hardware for their trophy cases. For Ramona’s ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, this year’s Great American Beer Festival turned out to be extra-special, as they were named the winner of the Samuel Adams “Brewing and Business Experienceship” program.
Every year, Samuel Adams picks one brewery from their “Brewing the American Dream” funding program and awards them the opportunity to participate in the Experienceship program. The purpose of the program is to give one promising brewery extended mentoring from key people at the Boston Beer Company, which produces Samuel Adams beers.
Beyond gaining brewing, distribution, packaging and ingredient sourcing knowledge, the winner gets to brew a collaboration beer with Samuel Adams, and they also get funding to attend industry events like the Great American Beer Festival.
The funding program initially caught the eye of ChuckAlek co-founders Grant Fraley and Marta Jankowska when they were looking to expand in late 2013. “We got a loan from Sam Adams about a year ago to help actually start to pick up our distribution,” said Fraley. “It got us to the point of being probably the widest-distributed nanobrewery in San Diego, and we’ve gotten a lot of great response from our distribution.”
ChuckAlek’s passion for brewing on a small scale is what grabbed the attention of Samuel Adams founder, Jim Koch. “I think they’re a model for the next wave of craft brewers that are going to take us to 6,000, 8,000 and eventually 10,000 breweries in the US,” said Koch. “It’ll be passionate, very small-scale breweries where the business model is not getting into Vons, Ralph’s and Safeway, but small breweries with tasting rooms that maybe sell growler fills, and have a very small distribution to a handful of accounts. That’s the business model that can get us thousands more breweries.”
What can we expect out of ChuckAlek as a result of this mentorship program? Fraley lays out some short-term and long-term visions. “We’re really looking forward to the collaboration brew with them, which will help us get our name out there even more,” said Fraley. “We’re based in Ramona, but we’re part of that larger community of San Diego. We’re still figuring out our next steps, but we’ll definitely be growing up and ramping up over the next year and a half.”
The Brewspaper is a regular column appearing in Pillar to Post online magazine. This blog is a media partner with West Coaster, a Southern California-based craft beer centric print publication and website: www.westcoastersd.com.