Longtime Passion for Suds Sparks Explosive Growth at Seattle Brewery
Oct 03, 2013
Robert “Beaux” Bowman is one of Seattle’s mad scientists of beer. In his laboratory, he mixes hops, water, barley and other locally sourced ingredients to produce the brews distributed by the Black Raven Brewery. “I’ve seen how passionate he is about the beer,” said Kathryn Gillespie, his business partner. “Brewing is both an art and a science – he has both of them down. Beaux is really good at what he does.”
Bowman began brewing in his garage during college and then began working in the brewing industry in 2001. Since opening the Black Raven in 2009, he and the brewery have received a host of awards; Seattle Magazine named him one of the city’s most influential people in 2011, noting his smart business sense and creativity behind the tap. “It’s a little bit like working at a circus,” said Bowman. “There are crazy animals, there’s lots of noise, a lot of fun, and some days it’s hard to tell you’re actually at work. I am fortunate enough to also have some great talent in the brewery to help me pull off this show.”
His beer has been a runaway success. Soon after opening the brewery, Bowman and Gillespie knew they’d need to expand. Their 35-barrel fermentation capacity on opening day was expected to last six months; it didn’t even last six weeks. The Redmond, Wash.-based brewery features a small retail space, but most suds are sold wholesale. There’s a waiting list of 100 establishments that want to serve Black Raven beer.
Bank of America Client Manager Jeff Grimes has worked with the brewery since the beginning. “Beaux is the most humble person you’ll ever meet,” said Grimes. “But he’s also very proud of what he can provide to his customers. It’s rewarding to see someone local and see the good he’s doing for the community by providing jobs and this incredible product that everyone wants.”
Bank of America helped connect the Black Raven Brewery with the contacts and resources needed to obtain a loan, which will triple capacity at the Redmond location by the end of 2014. The bank is currently assembling another loan package that will enable the brewery to open a second location in the future. “What we found with the bank was a very personal connection,” said Bowman. “They just kept rolling with the punches,” added Gillespie.
Black Raven has become so popular that it’s limited only by its ability to expand production capacity. With help from Bank of America, its founders look forward to the day when that’s no longer an issue. “Small business is a huge part of this economy,” said Grimes. “And for the economy to grow, we need small businesses like the Black Raven to thrive.”