Lucid Brewing Company opened in 2011 on the cusp of the current craft-beer boom, but before passage of the “Surly Bill” allowed production breweries to have taprooms on site. As a result, they built their brand by establishing a large distribution footprint and a consistent stable of beers.
Then everything changed.
Today, post-Surly Bill breweries use their taprooms to experiment with one-off beers, essentially using them as testing grounds for new recipes. If a beer does well, they’ll brew it again and consider investing the significant resources it would take to bring the beer to the broader retail and bar/restaurant market. If a beer doesn’t do well, let it fade into oblivion, no damage done.
Lucid’s brewers share in that desire to experiment with unique small batch beers, but their industrial Minnetonka brewery doesn’t have the space or aesthetic they’re looking for in a taproom. Their production schedule is tight as it is—just trying keeping up with demand for their already-established beers.
Rather than reconfigure their entire Minnetonka operation, Lucid is launching a new brand by the name of Inbound Brewco.
Lucid will continue production brewing in Minnetonka while simultaneously opening Inbound in the North Loop, near Fulton and the still-in-development Modist Brewing. There, Lucid’s dreams of having a small-batch, taproom-focused space will come to life.
— Lucid Brewing (@lucidbrewing) September 24, 2015
This wasn’t always the plan.
First, Lucid’s owners considered locations near their Minnetonka brewery. But the western suburbs lacked the ideal space for their dream taproom. Minneapolis, on the other hand, had vacant industrial units and a vibrant nightlife. The North Loop especially appealed to them.
“When we’re looking from Inbound’s point-of-view, we’re being selfish,” Lucid co-owner Jon Messier says. Essentially, Inbound figures to be a playground for Lucid’s brewers to produce the beers they dream about, but don’t otherwise have an opportunity to make. For example, Lucid just released their fall seasonal, Ora. “Getting this out to market we have to go through a branding and a printing,” Messier explains. Recouping those costs involves man hours and resources—things they’d rather dedicate to making beer. So instead of trying to work small-batch beers into the already-established Lucid lineup (12 beers released annually), they decided it was easier to start anew.
In addition to the flexibility Inbound gives the brewers, the Lucid team also hopes Inbound’s destination angle will appeal to a different audience of beer drinkers.“We want Lucid to be known for distribution, Inbound for the taproom experience,” Messier says. “We are branding separately to draw the distinction and talk to different segments of our client base more intimately.”
Inbound isn’t the first venture into expansion—literally and demographically—for Lucid. In June, the company purchased American Sky Brewing Company in Hudson, Wisconsin. The aviation-themed brewery has a loyal following that includes a strong component of veterans and older beer drinkers, which complements Lucid’s current audience as well as Inbound’s target audience. Each brand requires different marketing strategies aimed toward the drinkers most likely to be attracted to the different products—which is why the team planned for Lucid to stay in Minnetonka and American Sky in Hudson, while slotting Inbound for the North Loop.
That plan didn’t exactly follow its intended course, however. After acquiring American Sky, Messier says an unforeseen licensing issue related to changes Lucid wanted to make to some brewing equipment popped up. Then the lease of the building wasn’t offered for renewal. Ultimately, all these setbacks put the kibosh on Hudson-based brewing operations and forced Lucid to close the brewery’s popular “Hangar” taproom. American Sky beer is now being produced in Minnetonka and is available at bars, restaurants, and retail locations in western Wisconsin, as well as in growlers at Lucid. American Sky’s 15-bbl brewing system will be used at Inbound.
Amid all the changes, Messier says one thing remains the same: It’s still about beer quality. The beer at Inbound will be ever-changing and more adventurous, and its taproom will provide a unique atmosphere for drinkers. Lucid will continue to brew its staple beers and build its already-established brand. American Sky will target the western Wisconsin market with the same beers the brand was built upon. Three distinct brands with one common goal: to bring more beer to more markets, without compromising on quality.