Here’s a craft beer story I’m not sure I’ve ever written before: That of an expansion brewery ditching its own franchise name in order to go independent. That’s what is happening in Portland right now, as the Oregon arm of Fat Head’s Brewery is leaving its parent company, shutting its doors and then reopening in a different location under a different name, after being in operation in Oregon since Nov. 2014. The new brewery will reportedly be known as Von Ebert Brewing.
This was possible because the Portland location was a true franchise, owned by Portland-based entrepreneur Tom Cook. Apparently, the decision came after the franchisee and the parent company were unable to come to an agreement on how to renew the terms of their business partnership. According to Brewpublic, “all current employees will be given the opportunity to retain their positions within the new company that will occupy the space at 131 NW 13th Avenue.”
“Despite the best efforts from both sides, we were unable to agree upon a vision for the future,” said founder Glenn Benigni. “As a result, we’ve mutually decided to close the Fat Head’s Brewery location in Portland, pouring our last beer in early 2018. We’re extremely proud of our accomplishments and the success we’ve had here, including the the team that was put in place at its inception. We are forever grateful for their hard work and dedication to Fat Head’s. We’d like to say thanks to the beautiful city of Portland and all of the customers who joined us there over the years. It has been a pleasure serving you.”
This is interesting and unexpected news, given that Fat Head’s is a popular brand among beer geek circles (especially hop heads), without even mentioning the huge amount of hardware the Fat Head’s name has attracted over the years at award festivals such as GABF. They are perennial contenders for beers such as Head Hunter IPA and Hop JuJu Imperial IPA, both of which have gold medals to their name, and they took home another two medals at the 2017 GABF. As such, one would think there would be a strong incentive for a brewery to retain access to the Fat Head’s name and especially the recipes. The Portland ownership must feel quite confident that Von Ebert Brewing will be able to attract the same kind of business.
Fat Head’s, meanwhile, will now focus on expanding their production brewery and refocusing their brand in the states of their distribution: Ohio, Pennsylvania and neighboring states. They will move to a larger “production brewery and beer hall” in 2018, and also plan to open a new brewpub in Canton, OH next year as well.