Fat Head’s Brewery is proactive about its growth opportunities. The brand was an early pioneer in the expansion via location rather than just distribution — somehow opening up its first successful location in the stinkhole that is Pittsburgh (Go Browns!) in 1992. The operation teamed up with head brewmaster Matt Cole in 2009 to create Fat Head’s Brewery and Saloon just outside of the beautiful gem on the lake that is Cleveland. In response to overwhelming demand, a production facility was opened in 2012. Fat Head’s also operates a 300-seat brewpub in the heart of the craft beer paradise that is Portland. It was a maverick move, and it has paid off.
Being proactive also means making the tough calls, which is why Fat Head’s announced it will withdraw its business from Florida in 2017 in an effort to focus on its core markets of Ohio and Pennsylvania, where it sees significant short- and long-term growth opportunity. We also assume it was inspired by LeBron’s successful departure from Florida (only fair I mention this after embarrassing myself with that Go Browns! earlier).
The brewery has worked with Cavalier Distributing in Florida and will team closely with them to ensure the withdrawal is as minimally disruptive as possible to their retail partners. Cavalier Distributing will continue its relationship as Fat Head’s wholesale representative in Ohio and Indiana.
Inside the decision
While Florida’s craft beer market is seeing some of the most rapid growth in the country, Fat Head’s existing volume limitations make it necessary to concentrate their beer supply regionally. The last delivery to Florida is slated for arrival in early January, with the expectation that the market will be exhausted of Fat Head’s beer by early February.
“While this wasn’t an easy decision, based on current capacity constraints, we think it is in the best long-term interest of consumers to focus our available resources and supply within our core footprint of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. Excitedly, this will allow us to grow more substantially in our heartland in the coming year than we would otherwise have been able to do,” said Bill Wetmore, Fat Head’s new head of sales and marketing. “With plans for our expanded production facility well underway, capacity restrictions aren’t something we will need to deal with much longer, but they are our reality today and for the near-term.”
Wetmore, a beer industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience, joined the Fat Head’s team in October. “We’ve enjoyed rapid growth as a company and at this pivotal point in our evolution, Bill’s leadership and knowledge will be critical to our maturation as a brewery,” said Glenn Benigni, co-owner and founder of Fat Head’s. Prior to joining his role at Fat Head’s, Wetmore spent eight years with Brewery Ommegang (Duvel-Moortgat USA) where he acted as the general manager and marketing director.