In what’s too routine to call a trend anymore, Epic Brewing became the latest brewery to purchase another brewery in order to strengthen its own place in the crowded craft cooler. That brewery is Telegraph Brewing Co. of Santa Barbara, Calif, and as with any of these deals, the plan is to use Epic’s capacity and distribution footprint to expand Telegraph as a member of the Epic family.
Telegraph Brewing’s operations predate that of Epic. Brian Thompson opened Telegraph’s doors in 2006 to focus on Belgian-inspired beers with a California spin produced with local ingredients. For Thompson, the time was right to sell a stake in the company in order to grow — and to compete with the forces of AB InBev as well as the mass of smaller craft competitors.
“So much has changed in the craft beer world since I started Telegraph, back when hazy beers were just called unfiltered and there were fewer than 1,500 brewers nationwide,” Thompson said. “Today, with the number of breweries approaching 6,000, the craft brewing landscape is radically different. We are extremely proud of what we have accomplished, but the increased competition from the likes of AB-INBEV’s ‘crafty beers’ as well as new startups is requiring everyone in the industry to recalibrate their plans for the future.”
Epic had been looking to expand through acquisition for 18 months, to keep its head above the flood of acquisitions that changed the craft beer scene — from AB InBev’s High End division to Founders, Lagunitas and Ballast Point selling stakes to Oskar Blues, Harpoon, Green Flash, Brooklyn Brewery, and so on, building their own brands. Epic finally found an eager dance partner in Thompson.
“Earlier this year I began looking for ways to strengthen our legacy, and entering into a transaction with Epic was the right fit, both strategically and culturally. This partnership will allow us to nurture our deep California roots, retain and expand our amazing staff, and continue to develop our brand in new and innovative ways,” Thompson said. “My team and I are excited that Telegraph Brewing will remain a small, independent craft brewery and at the same time have the support and drive provided by one of the nation’s most creative, fearless, and fastest-growing brewery.”
Post-investment, there are immediate plans to increase the production capacity of Telegraph and offer new packaging options, including several new 12-ounce cans under the Telegraph brand. Epic will also move seven of its foeders from their Denver brewery to Santa Barbara, enabling Telegraph to produce more of its award-winning sour beers. California locals can also look forward to a new series of modern IPAs, including some juicy and hazy styles, which will be sold fresh from Telegraph’s brewery.
“It’s a long-term dream come true,” says Dave Cole, Co-founder of Epic Brewing. “Bringing Telegraph Brewing into the Epic family is exciting. We are investing in the future of Santa Barbara and are thrilled to have a direct and local connection to the amazing California craft beer community, where we share so much history. To be part of such a well-regarded brewery like Telegraph is something I’ve always hoped to do and now it’s finally a reality. It provides us an avenue to combine our teams and build on Telegraph’s portfolio with our innovative vision. This couldn’t be a better fit – including some advantageous distribution overlaps that create opportunities to expand both brands across California and beyond.”
Epic, originally opened in May 2010 in Salt Lake City, expanded to Colorado in 2013, produces 27,000+ bbls a year and distributes to 24 states and Washington, D.C. (tired of typing that – just become a state already).