In 2019, City Built Brewing Co. hopes to add a rooftop bar and a street parklet so it can offer outdoor seating during the warmer months at its location in Grand Rapids’ Monroe North neighborhood, according to co-founder Edwin Collazo. “We’re right on the river. We’re going to take advantage of those things that bring people to this area anyways.” Collazo also is betting the company’s distribution strategy will help lure more people into the taproom.
Are you planning any major investments for City Built in the new year?
We’re making arrangements now to accommodate equipment with the help of a local canning equipment maker, Microcanner. They’re going to use us as a test for some of their equipment, and we’re going to use it as a test for how does this fit in our space. We’re excited that we just recently started canning, and so we’ll definitely start to push toward canning more brands. What Microcanner allows us to do is to can more because (the equipment is) going to be onsite. It just gives us a little more flexibility.
With the new equipment, does that accelerate plans to focus on distribution?
Likely, we’ll be in a position where we’ll have to sign with a distribution partner, so we’ve been meeting with different distributors who call on us, asking if they can rep our brand. We did 600 barrels our first year from when we opened, from May to May. This year, January to December, we expect close to 700 barrels. We think now that we’re packaging and sending a significant amount more beer through distribution that we’ll hit that 1,000-barrel mark sooner.
Why is it important for a brewery of your size to be in distribution?
We’re looking to put beers in cans that fit where people are at with craft, and that’s ‘what’s the next new thing.’ People are always reaching for the next new thing, and if we can just keep providing that, at least as we start, I think it’s a good way to get it to the market, and get people to start pulling. City Built is just another brewery until we get people to try our beer. Then I think our brewers make us stand out.
Do you hope that distribution becomes a significant part of the business for City Built?
Honestly, right now, we are not trying to win distribution. We’re not trying to lose either, but distribution is a means to get people interested into coming to our space.
As more breweries continue to open in West Michigan, do you have any concerns that the market is reaching some sort of saturation point?
I think there’s room for what we have. Any new breweries, they’re going to have to come in to serve a neighborhood, and opening with a 20-barrel system may not be the smartest thing. The other side is I think we’ll probably see some shrinkage, but I don’t think it’s because our population won’t support it or beer drinkers won’t support it. Consumers are smarter about what to look for … and because they’re smarter, they’re going to make better decisions. If I’m going to spend six bucks on a beer, I want to make sure it’s good. Breweries that have been making good beer will continue to make good beer, and probably be in business. The breweries that were suspect, that would be their demise — not because we’re saturated.
Do you see any threat to the craft beer industry from recreational marijuana legalization in Michigan?
I don’t see how we’d be affected. I don’t know that someone is going to say, ‘Am I going to get super stoned right now or go have a beer?’ Likely, they’ll say both. From our perspective, it will be like, ‘This person is acting funny. Are they inebriated or what am I seeing?’ There might be some training that comes with that, but I don’t see how legalization affects what we’re doing. I think it’s a good thing. Hopefully, they’ll let us start brewing with it.
What happens to the craft beer industry if the economy experiences some sort of correction?
There seems to be this cultural push to buy things as close to you as you can. Those dollars stay in your area, and so we feel like if we we’re serving our neighborhood when we’re flush, likely we’ll have an opportunity to serve our neighborhood when it’s hard. I would like to think beer is recession proof because that’s what helps you sleep at night. But I tend to be positive, sunny, glass is half-full type of guy.
Interview conducted and condensed by Joe Boomgaard.