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Case Study: Forager & Humble Forager

Minnesota’s peculiar beer laws compelled Austin Jevne and Annie Henderson to spin off a contract-brewed brand distinct from their original brewpub. Turns out, the lemonade they made from those lemons tastes pretty sweet.

Kate Bernot Mar 9, 2023 - 13 min read

Case Study: Forager & Humble Forager Primary Image

Photo: Paul Flessland

Ask Annie Henderson and Austin Jevne to explain the business model for Forager and Humble Forager, and they describe what sounds like a game of Mouse Trap or a Rube Goldberg device—each piece has to fall into place for their businesses to work. So far, however, those pieces have clicked perfectly, earning both their brewpub and distributed brand a reputation for quality and innovation.

They first founded Forager—a brewpub in Rochester, Minnesota, serving wood-fired pizzas topped with locally raised meats and pouring a range of beers designed by Jevne—in 2015. It wasn’t more than a year before the pair realized there was demand for Forager’s beer beyond their walls, from bars, restaurants, and bottle shops in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Just one problem: Minnesota’s antiquated beer laws don’t allow brewpubs to sell their beers through distribution.

So, Henderson and Jevne got creative: They obtained municipal catering licenses in other cities, and they served kegs of their Rochester-brewed beer at restaurant events, alongside cheese boards or sandwiches, to thus constitute a “catered meal.” Eventually, however, this proved unwieldy and time-consuming; the pair needed a longer-term solution to get their beer into the wider market. They decided to launch a second, separate distribution company—Humble Forager—selling some of the most popular beers from the brewpub.

Another roadblock: Minnesota doesn’t allow a license holder to own both a brewpub and a distribution company. After 18 months of legal research and discussion between Henderson and Jevne, the duo decided to split the businesses between them. Henderson would own Forager, and Jevne would own Humble Forager. Silent investors who wanted to be part of both businesses also had to split up ownership stakes within their households. Humble Forager, meanwhile, would take its recipes to Octopi Brewing—a contract brewery in Waunakee, Wisconsin, which Jevne knew thanks to Levi Funk of Untitled Art and Funk Factory Geuzeria. (Humble Forager also contracts some production at Fair State Brewing Cooperative in Minneapolis.) With brewing contracts in place, Humble Forager launched in March 2020.

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