What Goes into Rebranding Decisions: The Recent Makeover at Chilly Water Brewing

What Goes into Rebranding Decisions: The Recent Makeover at Chilly Water Brewing

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Chilly Water Brewing in Indianapolis has completed a makeover of their brand and is in the middle of expanding their brew house to get more of that rebranded beer out to the public in distribution. They carried out this process in a deliberate and thoughtful way, utilizing the talents and ideas of CODO Design of Indianapolis.

It occurred to us that this might be a good time to delve into the hows and whys of a rebrand from the customer point of view, as this might give other breweries thinking about this issue a few clues on how to get it done. After all, coming out of the pandemic and re-establishing/building a relationship with the craft beer drinker might be just the time to rebrand; a fresh start if you will.

I talked to owners Dan Kryzwicki and Matthew Chandler, as well as manager Jaime Alvarado about the rebrand at Chilly Water. They had some great pointers and explanations about how their situation called for this move. Hopefully, their comments can help others:

image credit: CODO Design

Why rebrand now: “We’ve always had customers insisting that we expand and get our product out. It was never in the original business plan but like all things, change happens in order to adapt with the times. With Skip stepping down and Matthew and I securing funding for an expansion, we could not push marketing off anymore.”

“The business has sustained itself on great product and the on-premise experience with almost no marketing from day one. With our goal to get our product out to more consumers we felt that we needed a high quality, cohesive brand that is as attractive to the consumer as the product it represents. The more beer you already have in the market, the bigger deal and work a rebrand is; since we had less beer out there to begin with, the easier it was to rebrand now – fewer things to change.”

How do you decide on a company to help you rebrand: “We met with a few agencies before deciding on CODO. Each one showed examples of past work and shared their process of brand building. We really liked CODO’s approach of a more in-depth information gathering process prior to any sketching and concepts. They really tried to hone in on what Chilly Water is, who the people are, what we represent, etc.”

“We felt it was a more thorough approach and created a nice foundation to build upon. CODO specializes in food and beverage branding and they have become nationally recognized for their work. The fact that they have so much experience in this particular sector of the industry made it a sound decision for us. They are also our neighbors; that was an added bonus. “

image credit: Chilly Water Brewing

How much must a rebrand entail, is it concept and design, or does it go as far as menu, décor, ideas on distribution, ideas on beers: “We were able to pick and choose what we wanted in the initial discussions. Our main focus was a brand identity package to bring a more professional and cohesive look to our entire company.“

What surprised you the most about the process of rebranding and what advice would you give other breweries who are thinking about rebranding: “The information gathering process was what intrigued me the most. I liked how thoroughly they educated themselves on our company before going to the sketching board. As for advice I would give – do it sooner than later. The longer people recognize a brand, the harder and more expensive it is to rebrand. More things that need to be addressed (packaging, signage, swag, logos, etc).”

The music theme was a central focus of Chilly Water. Was the rebrand a conscious move to get away from that focus: “Music is still a big part of our brand. Many of the brand marks and symbols created in the rebrand process are nods to our love for music. It may seem as though we are moving away from music but that is simply because of the COVID pandemic making it much more difficult to host live music at our locations.”

You are working with Craftroads Beverage – did you consider self-distribution? What are the factors that went into making that decision: “Craftroads is a small distributor with deep experience in the industry. Their portfolio is very limited but contains very high quality brands from around the country. We are proud to be the only Indianapolis brand that has been accepted into the Craftroads portfolio.”

”There are many pros and cons to consider when deciding to go with a distributor or handle it ourselves. As you know, Indiana is unique in that breweries are allowed to self-distribute. One of the driving factors to go with a distributor came down to physical storage space. We simply do not have it.”

Chilly Water may have rebranded, but music is still a huge part of their identity. image credit: Chilly Water Brewing

You are bringing in lagering tanks as part of the expansion. Is this a part of the rebrand or was it a separate idea altogether: “Lagers have always been a staple at Chilly Water. We’ve prided ourselves on making some of the best lagers in the nation and that will remain in our business. We kept the phrase ‘Fine Ales and Lagers’ as part of the rebrand. We hope to continue making lagers, and making even more of them moving forward. Unfortunately, the consumer is king when it comes to what styles we produce, but on the other hand there is still plenty of room in the market for a company our size to stay very productive in making the best lagers out there.

You are expanding volume as well? You have cans going out in the stores for the first time – what made this the time to start distributing beer: “Yes, the brewery expansion will be increasing our production volume almost three fold. While this is still a drop in the bucket compared to larger production breweries, it will allow us to get our brand out to more consumers. The shift to package beer vs. on-premise sales was directly correlated to the COVID pandemic. We must adapt to the times.”

Is the Chilly Water Taproom in the rebrand – do they come along with the same plan or do you do something different for them: “The taproom will have elements of the rebrand implemented as we move forward. Our beer menu was the first obvious one. Signage and more cost intensive improvements will come in the future.”

What haven’t I asked you about the rebrand or the expansion that you want people to know: “I think that about covers it. Our long-term goal is to continue to open more taprooms and move back towards on-premise consumption where we can best control the quality and experience of our product. We will see what the future will bring and will need to continue to adapt to what works best for the business.”

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