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September 2, 2021 What's The Deal?

Athletic Brewing's Milford expansion driven by rapid growth

Bill Shufelt (left) and John Walker are the owners of Stratford-based Athletic Brewing Co.

Stratford-based Athletic Brewing, which bills itself as the nation’s first non-alcoholic craft brewery, produced 40,000 barrels in 2020.

This year it surpassed that production level in May. To say the company’s products are in demand might be an understatement. Now it’s embarking on a major growth plan in Connecticut.

Athletic Brewing recently signed a lease to occupy a 150,000-square-foot Milford property at 75 Cascade Blvd. The building was recently purchased for $14.9 million by 75 Cascade LLC, which is controlled by Donald B. Smith Jr. of New Oxford, Penn.

Athletic Brewing does not own the property.

Company co-owner Bill Shufelt said in an interview the new location will serve as a large production facility so Athletic Brewing can ramp-up capacity and keep pace with growing consumer demand for its non-alcoholic beer brands like Run Wild, Upside Dawn and Free Wave.

“We are building an expansion brewery to meet our future growth needs,” said Shufelt, adding that Athletic has been the fastest-growing brewery in the country for the last few years.

That rapid growth has led to new major investments. In early 2020, for example, Athletic Brewing announced it had purchased a brewery in San Diego, Calif. It also recently raised $50 million from investors.

Athletic Brewing established its first 10,000-square-foot brewery in 2017 in Stratford and plans to maintain that location as its headquarters, Shufelt said.

The Milford property will mostly involve a manufacturing build-out, including installation of top-of-the-line brewing equipment and high-speed canning lines.

“Most of the build-out is more on the mechanical and equipment side than it is on the actual construction,” said Shufelt, who declined to disclose how much is being invested into the new facility.

The Milford location, which will also feature a future taproom, will employ about 100 people within a few years after it opens; build-out has already begun and the property is expected to debut sometime in 2022.

The company, which has 150 employees nationwide, will be hiring a number of new positions, from sales and marketing professionals to skilled brewers and lab technicians and people with fulfillment, packaging and warehouse experience.

Athletic Brewing’s omnichannel e-commerce and shipping network has allowed it to sell nationwide, which has helped increase revenue by more than 500% each of the past two years.

Its beer is sold in 35 states, including in every Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Total Wine in Connecticut.

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