Fordham Brewing Co. looking to expand in DE

Found this article today in the News Journal.

Brewer expects deal to lift sales
Regional firm joins venture with giant Anheuser-Busch

DOVER — If you’re a craft brewer, it’s not enough to just make good beer. The tough part is finding a good way to get that beer into people’s hands.

For one regional brand that brews its product in Dover, the answer to the small “craft” brewer’s perennial distribution challenge was found by turning to the big guys for help.

Annapolis-based Fordham Brewing Co. is hoping that a joint venture with Anheuser-Busch will help it grow far beyond the regional market, eventually bringing increased production and employment to its Dover brewery.

That prospect was enhanced this month when the joint venture — called Coastal Brewing Co. — announced it will buy Old Dominion Brewing Co., a Virginia craft brewer and brewpub operator with primary distribution in the mid-Atlantic region.

“This is good for Fordham; it’s good for Dover,” said Bill Muehlhauser, Fordham’s chief executive officer. “We expect substantial growth.”

A similar partnership between Anheuser-Busch and a brewer in Chicago raised that company’s sales 80 percent, he said.

The Dover brewery has a capacity of 20,000 barrels a year now. Fordham wants to add the equipment to raise that to 50,000 barrels soon, and has 37 acres available to expand at the Dover facility. Eventually, the facilities at both Dover and at Old Dominion will be flexible enough to brew both brands’ beers, Muehlhauser said. “That’s one of the beauties of this deal,” which took over a year to put together, he said.

Anheuser-Busch is working to expand its stake in the lucrative craft beer market segment, which has posted solid growth for the past three years. In Delaware, craft breweries such as Dogfish Head in Milton, have helped lead the nationwide expansion, and brewers such as Iron Hill and Stewart’s have earned praise from fans and trade experts.

Fordham brews such beers as Copperhead Ale, Oyster Stout, Fordham Lager and Tavern Ale. Old Dominion is known for such labels as Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Ale and Hard Times Select lager. There are now five full-time workers and several part-timers at Fordham’s Dover brewery, but more jobs are expected. “We’re really scared to speculate” how many more, Muehlhauser said. “I don’t want to get people too excited, but yes, the labor force will grow.”

Both Fordham and Old Dominion brands eventually may be available throughout the East Coast, but the next move is to strengthen existing markets, he said.

“To continue to grow and survive, you’ve gotta get your beer to market,” Muehlhauser said. “We’ve all been scrambling for years to figure out how do you do that.”