Against The Grain Brewery goes global with attitude and humor

By: David Mattingly, WAVE 3 News

David Mattingly Against the Grain

By: David Mattingly, WAVE 3 News

It is not unusual to walk into Against The Grain’s Portland brewery and find heavy metal music blasting from the sound system, even in the morning.

You may not be able to taste the pounding beat and screaming guitars in the beer, but that’s not because the guys making the beer haven’t tried.

“We made one beer where we said that you could (taste the metal),” co-owner Adam Watson said. “We actually taped speakers to the side of the fermenter and blared metal at the yeast during the entire growing up process.”

It was a marketing gimmick consistent with the quirky, off-the-wall humor that brings Watson and his fellow co-owners international recognition in a crowded craft beer market.

At a time when millennial consumers crave authenticity, Against The Grain is selling more than just good beer, it is also selling the personalities and the story behind it.

“Working in a brewery is sometimes a strange thing. And it definitely encourages the strangest pieces of you to come out,” Watson said. “And I think we’ve all gotten used to each other’s oddities and found each other at least mildly entertaining if not outright hilarious.”

The approach has been a formula for success. When most microbrews have difficulty finding fans outside their zip code, Against the Grain is finding markets in Europe, Asia and South America.

“Even before we started the place, some of our international friends knew we were starting a place and said hey once you get going we need to get together and make something,” Watson said.
Against The Grain’s first year in 2011 brought $1 million in sales, Watson said.

He believes that figure this year they could reach $6 million.

There are more than 300 beers on Against The Grain’s website, some of them with edgy artsy labels and really off the wall, sometimes PG-13 rated names. Watson admits they came up with some of the names after first have a few beers.

“We’ve sometimes had a few, yes,” Watson said. “I don’t think it’s necessary but a couple of beers can unlock creativity.”

What the founders of Against The Grain have unlocked is a global demand for their beer and their attitude.

Four fun guys working in a brewery decided to go into business together. Seven years later they’re rocking out, shipping Louisville brewed beer all over the world.

Their biggest difficulty is managing the growing demand. Watson said they are constantly trying to strike a balance between increasing production and sales.

All things considered, not a bad problem to have.

“At the end of the day, in some businesses you don’t get to sit down and sample your product at the end in nearly as enjoyable a fashion,” Watson said.

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