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Good Beer Hunting

Oct 26, 2019

What happens to a brewery when a game-changing opportunity comes along? There have been 11 buyouts of American breweries by Anheuser-Busch InBev since 2011, and in this episode, we're getting some insight from one of them.

Roseland, Virginia's Devils Backbone Brewing Company was brought into the AB InBev network—now known as the Brewer’s Collective—in 2016. At the time it was producing 65,000 barrels per year, and grew to about 80,000 in 2018. When it was acquired, Devils Backbone was known for selling the top craft six-pack in its home state: Vienna Lager. A lot has changed since.

Today, Devils Backbone is expanding in a variety of ways. It's not just the number of barrels or headquarters nestled in the mountains of Virginia. Now, there's hard lemonade, and canned cocktails. New beers and expanded packaging to move higher volumes of beers like Vienna Lager and Gold Leaf Lager, now in 15-packs. Whereas the business once eyed steady growth to stay competitive in Virginia, its success in the Mid-Atlantic is now a real thing, with shoppers in grocery and convenience stores interacting with the brand across increased shelf space.

So what happens to a brewery when this takes place? We're going to find out from two perspectives.

First, you'll hear from Hayes Humphreys, the COO of Devils Backbone, who brings a point of view that ranges as far and wide as the potential reach of the company. That's followed by a conversation with brewmaster Jason Oliver, and we'll get a little in the weeds with him about what his job has been like, and what's changed for someone who’s been with the company since 2008.

These chats offer perspective on Devils Backbone’s continuing evolution, and I hope they’ll give you additional understanding of what life is like for one of AB InBev's core craft brands.

This is Hayes Humphreys and Jason Oliver of Devils Backbone. Listen in.