Innovation Destination Hartford spoke with Ben Braddock, Founder and Owner of Hog River Brewing Company in December 2015, before the brewery opened. Since then, Hog River has become a local destination for craft beer and entertainment.
IDH recently checked in with Ben to find out what’s new.
BEN BRADDOCK: Since opening August 20, 2016 we have been moving forward with a full head of steam. From a production standpoint, we’ve more than doubled our brewing capacity while keeping more than 90% of our sales in house. We’ve been inching closer to distribution, which should become more of a reality as we increase our capacity.
As a business, my wife, Joy left Cigna to join our team on a full-time basis. We also hired a taproom manager and recently added another brewer to our staff to expand our product portfolio.
IDH: Have you experienced any major pivots since we featured your story?
BEN: I can’t say we’ve had any major pivots. We’ve stayed on track and even exceeded our own expectations. For the first two years, we’ve been busy trying to keep up with demand, which we see as a huge success.
We started Hog River brewing very traditional beers and, while tradition is important to us, we have found that we need to continue to evolve to stay relevant in an extremely competitive industry.
Going forward, we’ll continue to brew traditional beer styles while incorporating some really neat and innovative projects. We have a lot on the horizon and we look forward to sharing new products with our customers.
IDH: Have you been involved with any startup resources in the region?
BEN: We worked with SCORE in the beginning. We had a wonderful group of people who helped us secure financing. They were a tremendous resource to have on our side.
IDH: It seems obvious, but how are you building a customer base?
BEN: We’ve been fortunate to build our business on word of mouth and strategic partnerships. We are a boutique brewery that relies on people spreading the word.
Sometimes it amazes me that we are where we are given the challenges we face as an urban brewery. We have a lot working against us, but we get people here to Parkville to drink great beer while enjoying food trucks or participating in the great events that take place in our neighborhood including our Twang Thursday music series or the KNOW GOOD Market.
IDH: Where do you see the entrepreneurial landscape heading?
BEN: To be successful, entrepreneurs need to take the bull by the horns and blaze their own path. This is what we see every day in Parkville. Creative minds are challenging the old ways of doing things and creating new opportunities. I firmly believe that entrepreneurship and small businesses make a difference. Entrepreneurs have drive and passion with so much riding on the line. These are the people who can make change.
IDH: Tell us about the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship in Connecticut.
BEN: Creating change and challenging what’s “normal” is extremely important to the evolution of society. Entrepreneurs with an endless need to succeed can make a difference in so many ways.
IDH: Aside from funding, what do you need most to move your company forward?
BEN: We need more people to support small business in Hartford. There’s a huge network of motivated people trying to make a difference in Hartford. We need more people to give the city a chance by pushing their comfort zone while trying something new.
Small businesses are the heartbeat of this city and people will never hear of them unless they make an effort. We ask that people come experience what is going on for themselves and make up their own mind about what Hartford really is. I think people will be surprised in what they find. This is alone will help create a vibrant city culture and successful small businesses.
IDH: What’s next?
BEN: We’ve outgrown our production space and we’re looking to take over more space in 1429 Park Street to expand our product portfolio. In the upcoming months, we’ll be adding a sour program as well as a barrel aging program.
Beyond that, we have ton of innovative ideas that will challenge people’s perception about craft beer. We are also investing in our Twang Thursday music series presented by Wise Old Moon frontman Connor Millican. This unique music series attracts artists from all over New England and we hope to establish Hog River as a premiere music venue in Hartford for original artists.
Find out more about Hog River Brewing Company