03 May An Update On The Sale of TwoDEEP Brewing: Still Craft Beer in All Regards
Indiana On Tap published a short article recently on the sale of TwoDEEP Brewing. We wondered if a non-brewing corporate owner and the subsequent loss of “craft brewer” status as accorded by Brewers Association was a reason for worry about their beer or philosophy. We wanted to talk about this with the new owners, but had not been able to connect – that has changed.
New owner Keith Reilly and I had a nice conversation on the phone recently and will be talking again soon. Several concerns we had were allayed, and a couple of facts were brought to our attention that changes the way BA will look at TwoDEEP. It turns out that while Keith and several partners own the O’Reilly’s Irish Bar & Restaurants, it was just Keith and a couple of his partners that bought TwoDEEP from founding owner Andy Meyer and his partners.
Keith and his two partners formed a small entity called Surprise Face Entertainments (there’s a story there) that now has control of TwoDEEP. Basically, this means that three people own TwoDEEP and they are still a small, independent, brewer and as such fall under BA’s definition of a craft brewery. There, that makes me feel better about the technical issue. Now, what about the philosophical issues that always come with new brewery ownership?
There may be some changes that take place, but the key is that Keith sees them as enhancements to what TwoDEEP was doing, not radical changes from their model or philosophy. Keith said that there is too much going right at TwoDEEP to change everything; there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel here. The key to the venture now is to make TwoDEEP more accessible for everyone – more food, family friendly, keep doing events, and get more beer to more people. Keith and I went through several topics and discussed what might happen.
Brewery. Keith explained that he is a fan of many of the TwoDEEP beers, the Knightstick, the Fergus Red, the Brickstone Amber – they aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they are looking to make more of them, and then add to the repertoire. Keith sees no reason that TwoDEEP can’t be making 1500 barrels of beer a year within a short time, and this will mean more different beers in the taproom, and more beers in distribution. Keith has long experience with Zink Distributing and sees TwoDEEP maintaining and building that relationship. The transition of ownership meant things were up in the air for a period, so less beer was made. Now the team is hitting the brew days hard to build up an inventory of beer so they can give Zink the beers they have been asking for.
The beer will stay true to craft brewing. Brewer Zach Rupp will be producing even more one offs and small batch beers. Some will be ramped up to large batches if the public embraces them, but it’s good to know that the new owners are committed to small batches, casks, and innovation. They respect the malt-forward philosophy of TwoDEEP and embrace that side of the craft beer world, but as one of the enhancements planned, they don’t intend now to be only a malt thinking brewery. That’s where the increased innovation and broader reach elements come in to play.
Restaurant/Taproom. Changes have been made/are being made to this part of the business. That isn’t surprising since the owners come from a bar/restaurant background. First of all, the ATC has been in to show TwoDEEP what will be needed in order for them to become an all ages establishment. The taproom is too pretty to mess with any decorations or radical changes, but a rail will be added to allow children to come in and eat with their parents. This should be completed in the next week or so.
Secondly, the menu at TwoDEEP will be expanded, both in terms of number of items and styles of items. Chef Josh Henson is ready to add a smoker to the kitchen, expand the service hours to include lunch items (by sometime in June), and will be working on brunch recipes for both Saturday and Sunday mornings/afternoons.
Other changes aren’t so visible. A new POS system has been added so that service will be easier, faster, and sales can be more easily tracked. The kitchen is getting some new toys to play with and some updates, but the large, wood-fired pizza oven isn’t going away. The pizzas are great and they sell well, which is good, because that massive piece of equipment wouldn’t be easy to get rid of even if they did wish to remove it.
Community. The new owners are excited about the opportunities to turn TwoDEEP into a community hub. They took a walk around the area and discovered that there is more residential space there than they thought; now it is a matter of making sure that the people that live around TwoDEEP know that they are expanding hours and menus and becoming family-friendly. This will be a good start, but there is more in the plans.
By next summer, TwoDEEP wants to be hosting a Saturday Farmer’s Market in their parking lot as a way to bring more people together in the area and create a more neighborhood feel. The lunch and brunch hours will also help in bringing people in for various days and time, helping them to think of TwoDEEP as their second home. TwoDEEP already has a successful Trivia Night on Thursdays, so that’s not going away, but it will be added to with other events, like comedy nights or more karaoke.
There are also businesses all around TwoDEEP and Keith says that the idea of business events at the taproom was a good one, was very successful, and will be expanded on. In general, the brewpub needs to be a place that people can come in for a purpose or come in to just hang out. This is one of the hallmarks of their experience in the pub industry – in fine Irish tradition, the pubs are most definitely community hubs, and the success the partners have had at creating this atmosphere in their other ventures will be brought to bear at TwoDEEP.
Branding. Nothing has been decided in this area, but the owners and concerned parties will be tackling this issue in the next couple of weeks. Keith admits that this is a difficult problem to address. Is it better to build on an existing fan base while making it harder to reach out to new fans or people who think they know what TwoDEEP is all about, or is it better to rebrand and build a completely new fan base while discarding the existing brand loyalty that is such a part of craft beer.
Who knows, there may soon be a new name, new logo, and new signage for TwoDEEP, but since so much of what makes TwoDEEP what is will be staying, would that be the best idea? This is the dilemma that Keith and partners face. I am happy enough knowing that the fell of the place is something they want to keep, TwoDEEP (whatever the name) will retain it’s heart and much of it’s beer. It’s not looking to become another Irish pub or any other radically different kind of establishment. Look for an enhancement of TwoDEEP, even if it might have a different name or color scheme on the glassware.