Industry All Access Exclusive

How Some Breweries Are Expanding in a Tough Market

Whether anecdotal or statistical, there is plenty of unwelcome news to go around the brewing industry these days—and yet, success stories continue. Here, we look at a few breweries that are growing, and how and why they’re doing it, despite the prevailing headwinds.

Tiney Ricciardi Feb 26, 2024 - 10 min read

How Some Breweries Are Expanding in a Tough Market Primary Image

Crying Eagle in Lake Charles, Louisiana, frequently hosts live music. Photo: Courtesy Crying Eagle Brewery.

If Brian Rauso could use one word to describe the current business climate for craft breweries, it would be “scary.”

As cofounder and CEO of Green Cheek in Orange, California, Rauso has watched soberly as many of the industry’s elder statesmen have closed up shop or downsized considerably in recent years. It’s almost impossible to ignore the signs of a contracting market, he says. And yet, Rauso’s company is expanding like never before.

In March, Green Cheek will open a new brewery and restaurant in Oceanside, California. With 18,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor real estate, the beachfront property is Green Cheek’s biggest location to date, complete with three bars, a kitchen, a rooftop patio, and a space for private events.

Since the company’s founding in 2017, Rauso has made a habit of securing spaces from breweries and restaurants preparing to go out of business. That strategy has paid off—Oceanside marks the brewery’s third expansion in about four years, and it will be Green Cheek’s fourth brick-and-mortar location.

“My job was always to keep debt low and always look for the next opportunity when everybody else isn’t,” he says. “It’s scary out there, [but] there are opportunities, and you have to try to see if there’s something that fits that doesn’t break you.”

After a decade of exponential growth, the craft-beer industry is weathering a significant market downturn in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, driven in part by competition from other alcohol segments and in part by rising input costs and other unfavorable economic factors. While many companies see now as an optimal time to hunker down or retract, others are seizing opportunities to expand by diversifying beyond beer or capitalizing on turnkey real estate.

Access All of the Brewing Industry Guide

Subscribe today to access all of the in-depth brewing stories & advice you won't find anywhere else (including this article). Subscription includes unlimited access to every brewing report, brewing course (60+), article, video (55+), magazine issue (40+), and more.

Tiney Ricciardi is a Colorado-based journalist who covers beer, spirits, cannabis, and other "earthly delights." She's also a staff reporter for The Denver Post.