Trends can make or break a business, and getting in at the beginning of one can be key to establishing a new business. Not only did the co-owners of HiJinx Brewing Company in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in South Allentown manage to turn their beer-making hobby into a business, they managed to do it at the right time too.
HiJinx Brewing is part of an explosion of craft brewing companies that have more than doubled in number to over 4,200 nationally, according to the Brewers Association, since the local brewery was founded in 2012.
So why is now the right time for a startup company to produce a product that is over 5,000 years old and experiencing fierce competition? Because the U.S. beer market is undergoing a major change that has allowed craft brewing double-digit growth that is taking share from the large traditional producers. And why is this shift happening?
First, consumer tastes are transitioning from the lighter, generic, mass-produced beer dominated by a few large producers that emerged out of prohibition, to bolder and more complex flavors produced by craft brewers. Second, the consumer trend for farm-to-table dining and supporting local businesses is driving interest in independent craft breweries. And third, business startup success requires producing a product you love – something HiJinx’s founders are known for.
Turning a hobby into a business
Curt Keck, founder and Brewmaster, and his business partner, Head Brewer Chris Becker, each started as one of over a million homebrewers. While many hobbyists aspire to turn their passion into a business, Keck and Becker have done just that. They launched the brewery in Keck’s garage and continued to produce, package, and distribute their beers from there for the first three years.
In 2014, having built the initial demand for their products, they moved the company into the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. According to Keck, “There is no magic formula to scaling success in craft brewing – it just takes time and effort. You sell more beer so you can buy more tanks to make more beer to sell.”
A sales and distribution hybrid approach
Traditionally, product manufacturers sell to distributors or retailers who in turn sell to consumers. But the world of craft beer is different. About 40 percent of craft producers operate brewpubs that sell the majority of production directly to the consumer along with food and sometimes other alcohol.
HiJinx has developed a hybrid approach selling to both businesses and consumers. It has organically built relationships to sell to business channels like bars, stores, distributors, and event organizers. As a result, you can find its craft beer on the shelves at Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Shangy’s; on the menu in many regional bars and restaurants; and at local festivals and events. Many of its customers come directly to the brewery tasting room in Bridgeworks to enjoy the latest craft creations, meet friends, and enjoy local bands and food truck offerings.
Knowing what customers want
HiJinx is dedicated to producing high-quality beer in a broad range of styles that will appeal to any beer drinker, and building its brand and image directly with its consumers and fans. Keck and Becker get immediate feedback from their fans directly in the tasting room, which provides input to their experimentation with new styles and ingredients. That feedback is what lead to the creation of their new barrel-aged beers from locally sourced distillers, including another Bridgeworks client, County Seat Spirits.