When Golden Road Brewing was acquired by Anheuser-Busch in 2015, L.A.’s craft beer industry lost its largest brewery to what many consider an enemy of the craft beer ethos.
Golden Road was stripped of its independent designation by the Brewers Assn., booted from the Los Angeles Brewers Guild and reviled by hard-line craft beer fans who saw Anheuser-Busch’s entrance into L.A. as unwelcome.
As beer industry consolidation continues, craft brewers such as Inglewood’s Three Weavers are finding ways to boost production while retaining their craft beer cred.
Opened in late 2014, Three Weavers quickly grew to become a leading producer of craft beer in the county, but in the beer world growth begets growth. As the brewery increased its production and pushed more beer into the market, it always seemed to remain a step behind the demand for its brand.
A good problem to have, but a challenge to solve.
I’d rather be in a cove with the CANarchy guys than out in the open ocean weathering a storm.
Co-founder and brewmaster Alexandra Nowell says, “We were always in a constant state of expansion.” The partnership with the unique CANarchy collective — a group of craft breweries that’s among the 10 largest producers of craft beer in the country — provides capital support to push Three Weavers into the next stage of growth, but more importantly Nowell says it is the access to a brain trust of brewing industry veterans with expertise in production, operations and business, that she’s most excited about.
“This is about easing our growing pains,” Nowell says.
Co-founder Lynne Weaver agrees. She says the beer industry is changing as the meteoric growth of the past decade begins to slow. Brewery closures are up, and clouds are gathering on the horizon. “I’d rather be in a cove with the CANarchy guys than out in the open ocean weathering a storm,” she says.
CANarchy calls itself a “disruptive collective of like-minded brewers dedicated to bringing quality and innovative flavors to beer drinkers in the name of independent craft beer,” and the collective blurs the lines between craft beer’s fierce independent spirit and the waves of corporate consolidation that have hit the industry in the years since brewing giant Anheuser-Busch bought Goose Island Brewery in 2011.
CANarchy originated when the Fireman Capital Group acquired pioneering Colorado brewery Oskar Blues in 2015, and soon acquired or partnered with other breweries around the country, including Florida favorite Cigar City Brewing, Michigan’s Perrin Brewing, a pair of breweries in Utah and most recently Deep Ellum Brewing near Dallas.
The individual breweries under the CANarchy umbrella stay independent in the eyes of the Brewers Assn., and they operate individually without any particular mandate beyond prioritizing quality.
CANarchy President and Chief Operating Officer Matt Fraser says Three Weavers was the perfect West Coast piece to add to the portfolio, and while expanding the distribution footprint has been a priority for some of the CANarchy breweries (we’re even getting Cigar City’s much lauded Jai-Alai IPA in Southern California now), the plan is to focus on California with Three Weavers.
“You’re going to see a lot more Three Weavers beer available in the L.A. market,” he says.
“We’re not selling,” Weaver says. “Three Weavers is buying into CANarchy.”
And while some beer drinkers and craft devotes will read that as equivocation, both Weaver and Nowell stressed that the partnership is the best way they could devise to continue to grow the brand and keep more beer flowing.
“They check all the integrity boxes,” Weaver says. Nowell says the expansion to the brewery’s production capabilities is underway with the addition of more fermentation capacity and cold-storage space, but she’s most excited to build a lab and develop a comprehensive quality assurance department.
It’s her priority to ensure that there is not only more Three Weavers beer available, but that all the beer they produce is better than ever, and she’s excited to get to work. “I’m not ready to hang up my boots yet,” Nowell says.
“In five years I want our employees to still be working,” Weaver says, “and now they’ll have better health insurance and a 401(k).”
Weaver named the brewery for her three daughters and she says the business is about more than just making beer. “It’s my way of communicating to my kids what they are capable of,” she says. “I want this legacy to continue.”