After a brief hiatus from the market, one of the pioneering brands in the Michigan craft beer industry will once again be back on store shelves.
Bellaire-based Short’s Brewing Co. has acquired the intellectual property and beer brands of the now-defunct Arcadia Brewing Co., which at one time operated breweries in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo and went out of business in September 2019.
Via its Superfluid Supply Co. division, Short’s has relaunched production of Arcadia’s Whitsun brand, a wheat ale brewed with orange peel, coriander and honey, which it expects will be available at retail in time for the July 4th holiday.
“There are very few brands that are historical enough that have a particular brand in Whitsun that resonates with consumers,” Short’s Brewing CEO Scott Newman-Bale told MiBiz, calling Arcadia “one of the pioneers in the craft beer industry.”
Superfluid had an initial production target of 1,000 barrels for Whitsun in the first year, “and roughly double that for next year.” However, with existing distributor and retail commitments, the company expects to surpass its first-year goal in the initial six weeks after the brand’s launch, Newman-Bale said.
“When we reached out to distributors and customers and big chain stores, the reception was amazing,” he said. “Distributors liked having that product at the time and thought they could do much better with it. There was a lot of goodwill with the distributors about that brand.”
Superfluid will look in the future to produce other Arcadia-branded beers “that would fill a void that would complement our portfolio,” according to Newman-Bale.
“We’re doing everything for the best of the brand,” he said, adding that the Arcadia brands should help fill some of Short’s available production capacity.
“We’re at a comfortable level with production and we’re having a great COVID recovery at this point. As a company, we’re really starting to see massively positive trends. We’re not too concerned about keeping busy,” Newman-Bale said. “This is more for the long term.”
When reached by text, Arcadia founder Tim Suprise acknowledged that Short’s was reviving the brands.
Arcadia Brewing was founded in Battle Creek in 1996, and later expanded with a multi-million-dollar production brewery and taproom in Kalamazoo in April 2014. It closed the Battle Creek location in 2017 following a spat with its landlord Battle Creek Unlimited, the city’s economic development agency.
In 2018, its last full year of production, Arcadia sold 4,466 barrels of beer in Michigan, down from 7,190 barrels in 2015, according to Michigan Liquor Control Commission data. The data reflect only beer sold in Michigan, and Arcadia at one point distributed to several states on the East Coast and even internationally to the U.K. and Spain, according to previous MiBiz reports.
Short’s pieced together the intellectual property for the brands from several sources following the demise of Arcadia Brewing last year when the bank assumed control of the company after it fell behind on its mortgage for the Kalamazoo facility and owed $150,000 in back taxes, according to a report in trade publication Brewbound.
Newman-Bale declined to disclose the terms of the deals.
Short’s Brewing, whose ownership includes a 20-percent stake held by Heineken International’s wholly owned subsidiary Lagunitas Brewing Co., is housing the Arcadia brand within its Superfluid Supply arm, which acts as an innovation unit of sorts for the company. Superfluid also includes the company’s Starcut Ciders and Beaches Hard Seltzer brands.
As well, Short’s previously collaborated with Windsor Township-based Green Peak Innovations, a vertically integrated cannabis company, on a line of beer-flavored edibles, as MiBiz previously reported.
Newman-Bale said the plan with Arcadia and Superfluid is to learn along the way how Short’s might be able to extend a hand to other craft brewery brands, both locally and globally, as they navigate “a weird spot” for the industry, which even before the pandemic has seen slowing growth and increased business closures.
The company is working on various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage projects under the Superfluid banner, which Newman-Bale described as “a place to house ideas.”
“This isn’t going to be a revolutionary massive business for us,” he said, noting the company is “very open” to licensing agreements, equity investments or other arrangements with existing craft breweries to help them navigate the turbulence in the industry or develop exit plans for aging brewery owners.
“We don’t anticipate this changing our lives, but we wanted to start a division for helping other companies so that they may not have to close,” Newman-Bale said. “We want to learn some of how that plays within our company.
“With Superfluid, it will allow us to flex in the industry to allow for wherever the industry may go. We’re not counting on it to change the world for us, but it could help provide us with some stability.”
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