Bear Republic Brewing Co. to be acquired by Drake’s Brewing Co.
In yet another shakeup of Sonoma County’s craft beer industry, Cloverdale-based Bear Republic Brewing Co. is being acquired by San Leandro-based Drake’s Brewing Co., according to reports.
Bay Area News Group reported Wednesday that Drake’s Brewing is “acquiring all of Bear Republic’s recipes, formulas and intellectual property.” And while Bear Republic will continue to brew its beer locally in the short-term, it will ultimately move operations to San Leandro in the next few months.
Rich Norgrove, president and CEO of Bear Republic, won’t completely be handing off the brand and will continue working with Bear Republic and Drake’s Brewing in sales, manufacturing and production, according to an exclusive interview with the Bay Area News Group.
“Racer 5 is shifting gears once again, beginning a new collaborative partnership with The Drake’s Brewing Co. The iconic West Coast IPA, once at the forefront of the California craft beer boom, is merging lanes to accommodate industry-wide challenges, while keeping a firm ‘pedal to the metal,’ moving forward,” the two companies said in a joint statement to the Bay Area News Group.
The Press Democrat has reached out for comment from Bear Republic and Drake’s Brewing but has not received a response. A call to Norgrove’s personal cellphone Thursday went directly to voicemail.
It could not be confirmed Thursday if Bear Republic’s brewpub in Rohnert Park would remain, though, according to the Bay Area News Group’s report, Norgove and John Martin, owner of Drake’s, have talked about future satellite locations in Sonoma County.
According to reporting from Brewbound, a brewing industry publication, data from the Brewers Association indicates Bear Republic has seen double-digit declines since 2017.
In December 2022, Bear Republic closed its Rohnert Park taproom as it cited slower tourism associated with winter months. Norgrove told The Press Democrat in December that the taproom would remain vacant until at least spring while the company decided on its next step.
The brewpub had already cut back its operating hours and experimented away from the traditional waitstaff model. A slower winter season would put the brewpub in the red, forcing Norgrove to reexamine his hospitality element at the business just south of Roberts Lake Park along the Highway 101 corridor.
In 2019, the brewing company closed its original brewpub and restaurant in Healdsburg. The Norgroves told The Press Democrat at the time that decision was made because of the rising costs of doing business in a tourist-destination city during a business slowdown.
Bear Republic has been among the most popular craft breweries in Sonoma County. Founded in 1995, it is known for its Ricardo’s Red Rocket Ale and Racer 5 IPA, among others.
Drake’s Brewing Co. was founded by Roger Lind in 1989 as Lind Brewing Co. in San Leandro. In 1998, Lind sold his business to a Bay Area coffee company that continued to brew the beer, changing the name to Drake’s.
Martin and his business partner, Roy Kirkorian, purchased the brewery in 2008 and have since distributed Drake’s beers throughout California.
Since the start of the pandemic, craft breweries in Sonoma County have had to adjust their business practices in an attempt to retain customers. Public health orders that mandated closures of indoor dining, beginning in March 2020, forced brewpubs to cease in-person operations, at least until outdoor dining was allowed a few months later. That, however, came with limitations.
Some locations never recovered from the sudden cliff, and subsequent sluggish path forward, in consumer revenue.
In July 2021, No Quarter Brewing Co. was forced to close its space in the Raley’s Shopping Center in Windsor, Steele and Hops on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa closed in June 2022 and Grav South Brew Co. closed its Cotati brewpub in November 2022.
Those businesses blamed their closures on the inability to financially recover from losses experienced during the pandemic.
In a further industry shakeup, Seismic Brewing closed its high-end taproom in Sebastopol’s Barlow in November 2022 to merge with its sister company Golden State Cider’s taproom just a few doors down.
“Given the immediate proximity and redundancy of both locations, this means choosing the Golden State Cider taproom to bring both brands together,” owner Christopher Jackson told The Press Democrat in November.
Norgrove told Bay Area News Group on Wednesday that the acquisition of Bear Republic benefits both companies and will allow Bear Republic to expand distributions to more Bay Area customers.
You can reach Staff Writer Sara Edwards at 707-521-5487 or sara.edwards@pressdemocrat. com. On Twitter @sedwards380.
Small businesses are the bread and butter of Sonoma County. I cover a diverse group: Chambers of commerce and business groups, clothing shops, jewelry boutiques, hobby stores and more. Economic uncertainty is a high concern among Sonoma County consumers, and it’s my job to make sure shoppers know what’s happening in the local economy and how those trends and issues impact them.
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