Recently it was announced that Ken Allen, who founded the brewery in 1987, is selling Anderson Valley Brewing to Trey White, a former USB executive. The response on the series of tubes we all know and love as the internet was swift and surprisingly negative. Also, there was quite a lot of speculation that was simply untrue. Even the local Anderson Valley Advertiser detailed some of the negative reactions. So I spoke with Trey White this morning to clear up some of the misinformation swirling around and get to the bottom of what he has planned for his brewery when he takes over next month, after the sale closes.
First, the biggest piece of misinformation, which I didn’t even need to talk to him about to correct. A number of negative comments took the form of “how sad, another case of a big business swallowing up a smaller one.” Wrong. White is a former VP with USB. That means he doesn’t work there any more, and in fact hasn’t for several years. I, and most of the accounts that mentioned his former job did so to show that he brings beer industry experience with him. That’s a good thing. It means he knows how the industry works. As I learned when I spoke with White, the business will be family-owned, just White and his wife. No big company in the background, just a mom and pop operation.
Here’s what else I learned about his plans for the brewery. White first visited the brewery three years ago and immediately fell in love with the place. He and Ken Allen have been discussing the purchase for nearly that long. He’s committed to its success and it wasn’t just a quick flash in the pan decision.
White and his wife currently live in downtown Chicago, ironically walking distance from the Craft Brewers Conference which will take place the first week of April. For the first six months to a year after taking over, the Whites will spend about 75% of their time in northern California. All of the current staff and brewers will remain in place and no changes will be made to any of the recipes. The first year, some of the packaging may be changed and it’s possible some additional styles and/or special releases will be created.
The Boonville Beer Festival will be unchanged and the planning for it will continue apace and it will be held, as scheduled, on May 8. The Disc Golf Course will also remain on the brewery grounds.
While the brewery continues to hum along, White will turn his attention to what he knows best: marketing, merchandising and selling. He’ll immediately begin working to increase distribution and get Anderson valley beers into a greater number of chain locations, making it even easier for fans to find the beer in a wider array of outlets.
Ken will be the first to tell you that his passion for the brewery has not been 100% over the last few years and he’s been looking forward to taking a much needed rest from running the business. Ken had this to say, in the press release:
“I have enjoyed immensely growing the Anderson Valley Brewery from a start-up operating a modest brew pub in Boonville into a world class regional craft brewery. The people and friends I have made in the industry will last a lifetime. I want to thank the many customers and brewery fans who have become key parts of the Anderson Valley Brewery family.
I have looked long and hard for the right person to whom to entrust our legacy and I could not have found a better partner in Trey White. His passion and knowledge of the craft beer industry, coupled with his respect for the brands we have developed, will make him the ideal person to take the Anderson Valley Brewery to the next level within the growing craft beer industry.“
So I can’t help but think this will a positive step for everyone, from Ken Allen, the new owners and fans of the brewery’s beers. In talking with Trey White, he has that passion that can propel the brewery to the next level. He seems sincere in his reverence for the brands Anderson Valley has created over the years and has no plans to alter them in any way. He has the right experience and contacts to grow the business successfully while keeping it true to its roots. Let’s wish Ken a happy retirement and Trey good luck with his new job as a small brewery owner.
The changing of the guard: new owner Trey White, at left, with founder Ken Allen in the Anderson Valley brewhouse.