GRAND RAPIDS — Bar and restaurant operator BarFly Ventures LLC of Grand Rapids has partnered with a contract brewery in Detroit to market and distribute HopCat-branded beer, MiBiz has learned.
Brew Detroit LLC will produce HopCat’s Beer Right Meow American India Pale Ale in kegs and 12- and 22-ounce packages for statewide distribution to retailers and bars and restaurants.
In entering an increasingly crowded market for craft beer and IPAs in particular, BarFly executives say the company wants to tread carefully and focus on creating a beer that stands up to the competition.
“We’re taking this one step at a time. We’re optimistic, but we’re trying to be very respectful of the beer,” said Chris Knape, BarFly’s vice president of marketing and communications. “We want to stand out in what’s a really crowded market. This is just our way of dipping our toe in the water.”
BarFly continues to work with the brewery ahead of a production and distribution launch “in the next few months,” Knape said.
“Our key is not rushing it,” he said. “We are going to make it about the beer and we hope that other bars (and restaurants or retailers) want to try it.”
Once ready, HopCat plans to distribute the beer statewide through Kalamazoo-based Imperial Beverage, with which Brew Detroit has an established relationship, Knape said.
From Brew Detroit’s perspective, the deal allows the contract brewer to make use of underutilized capacity, said CEO Jerry Kocak.
Kocak added that HopCat’s statewide name recognition — with locations in Grand Rapids, East Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit — should go a long way toward making the beer desirable for bars, restaurants and retailers, despite the numerous existing options.
“HopCat already has a name in Michigan, so that helps with the marketing of that brand,” Kocak said.
Brewers at HopCat’s Grand Rapids location, which is licensed as a brewpub, created the beer and served various iterations of it at the pub over the last year, Knape said. However, brewpubs can only sell house-made beers on premise, which led BarFly to look for a brewery partner to make the beer for distribution.
Founded by owner Mark Sellers in 2008, BarFly has expanded the HopCat concept in recent years, with nine locations in five states. In Grand Rapids, the company also operates Grand Rapids Brewing Co., Stella’s Lounge and The Waldron Public House, which opens Feb. 13 in the renovated space of the former McFadden’s Restaurant.
In September, BarFly secured $25 million in mezzanine financing from two Texas companies, Congruent Investment Partners and Main Street Capital Corp., to expand the HopCat concept to new markets with a target of six new locations per year for the next six years, Sellers said at the time.