COVERDALE -- The microbrew industry has matured into an iconic craft beer market as local entrepreneurs, like Bear Republic Brewing Company, Inc., have taken the category to higher levels of consumer acceptance and loyalty with a variety of popular hand-crafted brews, including full-bodied India pale ales featuring robust, "hoppy" and bold flavors.
Bear Republic (bearrepublic.com) remains on a fast track with its Racer 5 IPA brand, one of America's most medal-winning IPAs, along with its initial Red Rocket Ale, Hop Rod Rye Ale and Big Bear Black Stout.
In all, Bear Republic markets six bottled products available in eight 22 oz. bottles, five six-packs of 12 oz. bottles along with cases and kegs.
[caption id="attachment_95442" align="alignleft" width="360"] Richard Norgrove (left), owner, president and CEO of Bear Republic Brewing Company, and son Rich, brewmaster, next to large fermentation tanks at Factory 5 Brewery in Cloverdale.[/caption]
This year, Bear Republic will produce 75,000 barrels with plans to ramp to 125,000 barrels in the near term. With the expansion of its production facilities, the firm is targeting a goal of 300,000 barrels -- an increase of 400 percent over current output.
Already on the drawing board are plans for a new building on an adjacent 1.5-acre parcel the company owns to house a larger production facility, a retail center and tasting room, aimed at making it a visitor-friendly destination brewery.
Meanwhile, the firm has occupied all of the remaining unused bays of the building it purchased in Cloverdale, home of its Factory 5 Brewery at 110 Sandholm Lane.
The company also owns the brewpub and restaurant at 345 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.
Founded in 1995, Bear Republic acts more like a startup than a seasoned industry veteran as it continues to maintain double-digit growth.
Sales in 2014 are estimated at between $20 million to $25 million, which would be 15 percent higher than those of 2013. Sales increased 18 percent last year and 21 percent in 2012. In the first eight to 10 years, Bear Republic grew by more than 40 percent annually.
[caption id="attachment_95443" align="alignright" width="360"] Rob Kent, head brewer at Bear Republic's Factory 5 Brewery in front of "Miss Lizzy," the clarifying centrifuge used to remove particles without filtering.[/caption]
After nearly 20 years in business, the company's brews are now available in 35 states and seven countries.
"We had to slow down a bit one year when we ran out of qualified people for operations, maintenance and QA, as well as those needed to staff our own lab," said Richard R. Norgrove, president and CEO.
The only other limiting factor has been the water supply.
"We had to pull out of 15 markets and redline distribution to stay within our capacity to deliver, while we kept our key customers including craft-centric bars, multitap rooms and certain special events clients," Mr. Norgrove said.
The company has a Type 23 license for wholesale and retail sales, and works with distributors for all but about 5 percent of its major customers, so the firm can keep its finger on the pulse of business by servicing its own accounts.
Mr. Norgrove learned from the city of Cloverdale that $80,000 would be needed to explore new water options. He quickly wrote them a check to show his resolve -- which they immediately returned.