At the crest of the swelling American craft beer tidal wave of the early aughts, Wisconsin’s New Glarus Brewing Company — makers of the beloved Spotted Cow farmhouse ale — announced it would be pulling out of the Illinois market next door.
The decision shocked and even angered some folks outside of the Cheddar Curtain, and flew in the face of the contemporary expansionist wisdom of that era in the industry. But brewmaster Daniel Carey simply couldn’t brew enough to keep up with the demand in the state next door, so along with founder and president Deb Carey — Daniel’s wife — they decided to stay local.
Deb herself has expressed that “size doesn’t matter.” All jokes aside, she has a point. Expansion is not only expensive, but comes with the catch of restructuring an entire business model. Carey wanted to be a brewer, not a hands-off CEO. Expansion would mean reshaping the New Glarus vision, and that wasn’t exactly what the husband-and-wife duo had in mind.
The founder and president has also preached that “profits are sanity; volume is vanity.” At a time when most other breweries were upping their production and bragging about how many barrels they were shipping around the country, the folks at New Glarus responded with “That’s cool, but how much money are you making?” At the end of the day, that’s what businesses need to do, and the Careys figured that quality control and paying their workers a living wage with benefits was more important than potentially jeopardizing their ethics in the push to gain nationwide clout.
Today on “Taplines,” host Dave Infante is joined by Daniel Carey to discuss how New Glarus grew on its own terms and became a touchstone for an industry looking for ways to sustainably retrench as growth slows in the process. Tune in for more.