Craft Beer Road Trip: Industrial Arts Brewing Co.
By Korey David
I know it doesn’t always seem like it, but every brewery opens with a plan. While there are exceptions, most breweries create a business plan that revolves around one beer that makes up most of their sales. That beer is called the flagship. Think Harpoon IPA, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Lagunitas IPA, or Allagash White. Something I hadn’t considered before sitting down with Industrial Arts, is that, as a brewery, sometimes you pick your flagship. Sometimes the flagship picks you. A brewery faces the difficult decision to stick to their guns or be willing to adapt.
Industrial Arts’ Tools of the Trade is truly in a class of its own. While the label on the can calls the beer an XPA, or Extra Pale Ale, the best way to describe it would be a hybrid between a pilsner and an American pale ale. Easy drinking, tons of bright pink grapefruit flavor, a light body, and a 4.9% ABV. The plan was for Tools to make up most of Industrial Arts business with additional sales coming from State of the Art IPA and some small batch one offs. Then Wrench happened.
For lack of a better phrase, the haze craze took the country by storm. Industrial Arts’ (IA) brewer/owner Jeff O’Neill wanted little to no part of it. IA beers are characteristically clear, clean, and dry. That didn’t stop customers and distributors from pestering him about when he was going to make a hazy IPA of his own. Eventually he gave in to the requests, if nothing else but just to shut people up. It was then that Wrench, now one of the most sought-after hazy IPA’s in the northeast, was born. “After the reception from the first batch, I knew it was over,” O’Neill admits.
To help put things in perspective, Industrial Arts sold about 10,000 barrels of beer total in 2018. That includes all their brands like Tools, Metric Pilsner, and State of the Art IPA. Wrench was such a booming success that in 2019 he expects to sell 10,000 barrels of that beer alone. That’s insane! Especially for a beer that’s such a major deviation from what the brewery typically makes. “If you put this beer in front of me 5 years ago, I would have laughed at you.” No one’s laughing now. Jeff expects to hit year 6 of his business plan in just their third year of business. All based on the unexpected success of a beer he hadn’t planned to make. That willingness to adapt and be flexible is what helps Industrial Arts continue to grow.
Ultimately, Jeff makes decisions that are good for his business. He purchased a large space in an industrial park outside of Garnerville, NY that was set up for large capacity brewing. “We have to do volume in order to make this work. It’s not effective for us to sell individual units of unique beers. We think about pallets of beer. We need to be in grocery stores. You can’t be in grocery stores and Torst (The famous beer bar in Brooklyn) at the same time. You must pick your battle. Thankfully we’re more equipped to not be so married to only sell crazy, small batch beers.”
UNDENIABLY INDUSTRIAL ARTS
While Wrench exhibits some typical hazy IPA qualities, O’Neill insists it maintains some of the qualities that make it an undeniably Industrial Arts beer. “Very fermentable wort that makes it a clean final product. Big Mosaic and Citra flavors. Our water plays a big part as it does in all our beers. A lot of the minerality and salt helps with the mouthfeel. The outcome was very much influenced by the site that we found.” It’s not just the ingredients that make each creation a true IA beer. The end result has a lot to do with the equipment and process. “We have a lot of tools that most brewers don’t, which allows us to control fermentability and temperature in order to layer hop flavors.”
In addition to Wrench and Tools of the Trade, Industrial Arts brews an evolving, ever changing lineup of exceptional beers. Wrench might be driving the sales right now, but who’s to say what the next big hit will be? If their previous actions tell us anything, it’s that Industrial Arts will continue to grow by being adaptable and making objectively great beers that meet consumers needs. Jeff says it best. “As long as we keep our eyes on quality everything else will fall into place.”