Originally featured in the December 2013 issue of Business World Magazine, Adelbert’s Brewery has now taken its beer and unique story across the United States. Started in Austin, Texas the microbrewery is committed to creating hand crafted Belgian-style ales that get people talking.
Located between Burnet and Metric on Rutland Drive Metro Route 3 is a brewery that’s changing the craft beer scene in and around the Lone Star state. Whether it’s the improvements to their brew house, their bare brewery feel with foosball tables, tours and tastings or Happy Hour, beer is a sacred experience at Adelbert’s Brewery.
Founded in 2011 by Scott Hovey, Adelbert’s Brewery is driven by authenticity and enamored with making beer that stands up to the test of time. Hovey acknowledged in 2013 that the brewery is still in an expansion phase and in 2015, the growth continues. Equipped with a new 4500 square foot finished goods warehouse, two 40 hectoliter fermentors and one 80 hectoliter fermentor, Adelbert’s Brewery small team of 12 full-time and 12 part-time employees while nimble, are serious about quality and carving their place in a distinct marketplace vying for love, notoriety and discerning palates.
Having gone state-wide in California in March 2014, Adelbert’s is re-launching in New York with a different approach after switching distributors. With growth comes added responsibility and the brewery has heavily invested into measures aimed at increasing efficiency and minimizing downtime. For General Manager Sarah Haney, it’s about streamlining processes and listening to feedback.
“For the first few years we hand caged every bottle with a drill and we were bad at it and we’d get angry emails saying: ‘tried to open your bottle and the cage broke, you guys suck!’” Haney said. “We added a Rubino and Gambino automated cager and now that machine does the perfect amount of twists on every bottle and we’re running closer to about 1700 bottles/hour now so that’s been good efficiency.”
“We’ve also made changes to our bottling line,” Haney continued. “A few years ago before we bottled, we were pre-building every box every box that we would need – we’d look at how big of a batch we were going to do and say ‘ok this is going to be 400 cases so someone has to go and assemble 200 to 400 boxes. We added an automated box former to the bottling line so that way we’re not paying someone hours of work ahead of time. The boxes are actually being formed and filled while we we’re bottling, so that’s a time saver there.”
The allure of craft beer is not for everybody. But some find beauty and adrenaline in venturing off the beaten path. And for Adelbert’s Brewery, the only rules they have is: keep it authentic and never say no to an idea.
“99% of our ingredients are coming directly from Europe. We are as authentic European Belgian Style Ales as you can get in the United States. Our malt comes directly from Belgium and the Czech Republic. Every beer we brew is made with traditional Belgian yeast strains and European hops. The only thing that isn’t European is our water and Austin has fantastic water for brewing,” Haney said.
In late 2013/early 2014, Adelbert’s started a microbrew movement that encapsulates, empowers and opens a whole new world of possibilities for the Austin, Texas-based brewery. Bottle conditioned and true to form with the city’s hyper-localized mentality, the sub brands create an array of unique flavor elements that offer a new perspective – both from a business aspect and as a beer enthusiast.
“The way our sub-brands work is: we own them. We brew it, we bottle it, and we sell it,” Haney said. “The employees within the brewery are the brand managers for them. They’re the ones creating the recipes, overseeing the marketing and managing for those beers. The labels look different and the beer output is different, but it does say brewed and bottled at Adelbert’s Brewery in tiny print on the label.”
During the interview with Business World, Hovey mentioned the shifting change happening in bars and beer circles everywhere, saying: ‘slowly but surely, people are getting away from the Budweisers and the Millers and the Coors. They’re seen as your dad’s beers and non-cool.’ Adelbert’s vision for their sub brands goes beyond becoming a status symbol for a new generation.
“For us it’s a really cool way to create a brain trust of brewers,” Haney said. “Every time one of them comes in and says ‘I want to do this with beer’ or ‘I want to brew and add this to it’ our brewers will say ‘why do you want to do that?’ or ‘why are you picking wood versus stainless?’ it expands the knowledge of everyone who works here.”
“We’re learning from each other as well as bringing more beers to market for consumers without requiring them to have all the overhead. It’s a fun, different thing.”
In the craft beer world, awards mean a lot and speak volumes when dealing with the most skeptical beer drinker. In 2014 alone, Adelbert’s brought in 11 different accolades for their wide range of brews. At the 2014 Craft Beer Awards, Dancin’ Monks, The Traveler and Naked Nun were all recognized in their respective categories. Ranging from small to large, the victories honor the loyal following that the brand has garnered.
“We submit our beer for fun to see what’s going to come out of it,” Haney said. “It’s really exciting when we win because we can share that with our beer fans and it reaffirms that our brewers are doing something right!”
The long list of award success is not lost on the team at Adelbert’s. A passionate bunch who are fueled by hops and making a beer that they themselves want to drink. It’s beer for the people, made by the people.
“Internally, it’s just a nice morale booster and a good feeling that what we’re doing is being recognized,” Haney said. “We think we’re making good beer, but when you get an award for it, you’re thinking: ‘great, other people agree, we are making awesome beer’. It makes us feel really happy and cool.”
“Externally, it helps from a marketing standpoint,” she continued. “Consumers get really excited when they’re looking at a beer and they say ‘I really want to try that one because it won an award’. They really connect with it and there’s that kind of notoriety aspect of drinking beer sometimes.”
FOOD + WINE = HARMONY
In a crowded craft beer market like Austin, Texas piquing the curiosity of people is a guaranteed way to build brand presence and awareness. When competition is fierce, finding a differentiating catalyst means looking at the slightest and smallest of details and using it to your advantage. At Adelbert’s, that’s exactly what they’ve done.
“On our bottles we put the story behind the beer name; we put the description of it as well as food pairings,” Haney said. “There is a real person behind our brand and the stories. We have a personal touch and interaction with our beer. Someone may like us because they like Belgian beer. Someone may hear a story about what we’re named after and resonate with that.”
Adelbert’s marketing strategy is more than just about beer. Seen as an all encompassing activity meant to soothe the soul, the combination of food, beer and storytelling is at the core of Adelbert’s existence.
“In the food pairing aspect, a lot of beers are designed to be drank and forgotten about,” Haney said. “With our beer, we want people to really have an experience with it. That’s kind of our whole thing with the bottle – it’s a big bottle, it’s cork and caged, but you start the experience by popping that cork and hearing that sound. As you share it with your wife or your friend or at a dinner party or at a bottle share with friends, you read the stories and recommend the pairings.”
TAPPING INTO THE FUTURE
Adelbert’s wholesome and wholehearted philosophy of seek, savor and share with others is engaging a new crop of beer drinkers. Realizing the importance of engagement, the brewery’s focus is to grow market share, while maintaining a slow and strategic growth spurt.
“Just because we could file for all 50 states and start selling beer there tomorrow doesn’t mean we should,” Haney said. “We want to grow within our current markets and really get those sustainable and have a steady demand before we extend our reach too much,”
Not bound by a bureaucratic structure, Adelbert’s culture is led by a liberating sense of openness and opportunity to challenge the conventional standard of brew making and do something crazy, something different that will stay in the minds of people, long after the beer is gone.
“We’ve got the facilities, tools and access; we don’t need to keep it to ourselves,” Haney said. ”Let’s share with our employees and with people and make it a better beer market for everyone overall.”