CANarchy in the USA


There’s strength in numbers.  It’s proven.  One brewery working with another creates a stronger bond.  Many breweries collaborate with another brewery on beers, brewing and events, for example.  Some breweries are acquired, and others merge to create a larger parent brewery.  For whatever reason it usually works, whether it’s cooperating to maximise talent, working with like-minded breweries to increase market spread, or joining forces to maintain a dominant position and grow stronger.

There are, of course, smaller successful and innovative breweries who feel threatened because they recognise the potential for a Big Beer company to make a predatory move, especially when the Big Beer company itself feels threatened by the success and innovation of its much smaller competitor.  In these cases, many of the smaller breweries try to safeguard themselves by limiting the risk and minimising the potential, whether its switching ownership to the employees or forming a defensive organisation with other breweries who wish to remain independent and retain their identity.  Both examples are rare, but they do happen.

Another approach a brewery can take to retain its independence and identity is to form or join a collective that shares resources, knowhow and national/international reach.  Not only does this increase the strength of the brewery and offer much more scope and opportunity for growth, but it also eliminates the need to waste focus on a defensive strategy.

A notable example of this is CANarchy, the US beer collective consisting of four heavyweight breweries: Oskar Blues Brewery, Cigar City Brewing, Utah Brewers Cooperative (Squatters and Wasatch) and Perrin Brewing Company.

Kaeru Beer recently met Perrin Brewing Company employee Ethan Eggerding, who gave us a brief insight into the concept.  We therefore decided to investigate further because we thrive on disruptive innovation, and it seems a logical approach many smaller breweries could consider as part of their future strategy.

CANarchy is a so-called ‘disruptive collective’ that is dedicated to the quality and innovation of independent craft beer and brewers, something it wishes to preserve by “challenging corporate convention”.  Craft and artisanal beer itself is a classic disruptive innovation because it has disrupted the conventional approach to beer and beer-drinkers taken by the larger beer corporations.  This has proved successful and financially lucrative to the craft and artisanal beer industry.  This fact did not go unnoticed by private growth equity firms, such as Fireman Capital Partners, who have partially funded CANarchy.

But what does this actually mean for the breweries involved?  Not only does the combined local, regional and national knowledge and resources remove potential bottlenecks, but it also allows for upscaled production and greater national/international distribution for each member of the collective.  Moreover, establishing an overarching leadership team at its headquarters in Longmont, Colorado, CANarchy can align all executive focus into a single vision without compromising the control each brewery has over its business and brand.

Longmont, Colorado, is the also the home of Oskar Blues Brewery, which is no surprise because it is the largest and original member of the collective.  CANarchy was, till last year, named Oskar Blues Holdings, although it still retains its original goals and ambitions: to foster a culture of staunch individualism among a collective of breweries that wish to both remain independent and grow in a competitive marketplace.

Oskar Blues Brewery is often credited as the first brewery to release canned craft beer in the US, and this also perhaps explains the name-change to CANarchy, since the collective aims to be the number one supplier of canned craft been in the country, a path down which it has already progressed fairly far.