Brewing up excitement: Twin Oast's venture with Catawba Island Brewing Co. is an (Island) Joy

Craft brewing isn't just about hops and malt—it's about creativity, community, and the occasional bold leap into new territory. For Twin Oast, that leap came in the form of acquiring Catawba Island Brewing Co. (CIBC), adding a splash of adventure to their brewing journey.

Twin Oast Co-Founder Cory Smith discusses the motivations behind this move and reflects on the journey since the acquisition. So grab a pint and join us as we dive into the flavorful fusion of Twin Oast and Catawba Island Brewing Co.

The Helm: It's been about 9 months since Twin Oast acquired CIBC. Why did Twin Oast decide to purchase CIBC, and have those motivations been realized since the acquisition?

Cory Smith: There are a few main drivers behind the purchase. One, we believe the Catawba Island brand still had plenty of strength in the market. Hot Blonde has been a staple in the area for almost a decade, and we believe that if we can keep that beer consistent and available, that it will open a new sales channel for our distribution team. We live in a very seasonal area, so having another brand in our distribution channels year round will help our off-season when foot traffic at the Twin Oast taproom is significantly slower.  

We also believe that this was a great way to try out some creative beer styles and techniques that don't necessarily fit the Twin Oast brand. With Twin Oast, we put a lot of focus on lower ABV beers, beers that are farm-inspired, and beers that are true to tradition. We love this approach, but the CIBC brand allows our team to test the waters of some more adventurous brewing where there are no guardrails of tradition to dictate where to go. For example, an imperial s'mores porter doesn't quite fit the vision of Twin Oast, but it absolutely fits within the CIBC brand. 

Hot Blonde, Island Joy, and Seiche are three offerings from CIBC.Lastly, it has been a project since the inception of Twin Oast to have an area for barrel-aged fruited sours. This space should be kept separate from our regular beer production, as the bacteria that make sour beer taste tart also can infect "clean" beer. Having the space previously used by CIBC gives us a plug-and-play way to get our sour program off of the ground. 

Since the acquisition, we have found out that the old facility hasn't been quite as "plug and play" as we hoped, so we're still working on getting the old CIBC brewery up and running for sours. Our distribution team has reintroduced Hot Blonde into the market, as well as CIBC's final batch of Seiche, a local favorite Scottish Ale. Both are in stores now.  

Hot Blonde, Island Joy, and Seiche are three offerings from CIBC.TH: What new beers have been produced since the acquisition?

CS: The first new product under the Catawba Island Brewing brand is Island Joy. We call this beer a "Candy Bar Stout" as it is brewed to be rich and decadent, similar to a liquid candy bar. We then added vanilla beans, shredded coconut, and toasted coconut to mimic the flavors of an Almond Joy or a Mounds. 

We have plans to produce a new CIBC beer every season, while keeping Hot Blonde a year-round product. The next beer coming out is called "Sneaky Sinker" and is a double-dry hopped West Coast IPA brewed with experimental hop products. The goal is to be as lean and clean as possible on the malt, but to have an unbelievably pungent hop profile. It should be extremely flavorful while maintaining dryness for drinkability. This is scheduled to be a spring 2024 release. 

TH: How many CIBC beers are in production and how many are available at Twin Oast/around the area?

CS: The goal is to have two beers on shelves at all times throughout the year. Right now, we actually have three with Hot Blonde, Island Joy, and Seiche, though Island Joy is almost fully sold out. Right now, you can find Catawba Island Brewing brands in stores in Northern Ohio between Toledo and Cleveland. 

TH: Why has this acquisition and the production of new beers been important to the brewing community?

CS: On the CIBC side, we are aiming to brew creative and nostalgic beer. If these beers bring in a new audience because a "pineapple upside-down sour" (our summer release) intrigues them more than a Double Hazy IPA, then that is a win. There are many drinkers straying away from craft beer, for a variety of reasons, and we believe the brands we're going to offer will ring true with some of these drinkers and hope that they give us a shot. 

Twin Oast's sour production is important because it helps solidify our mission of having a sense of place in brewing. We have always strived to use farm-fresh produce directly from our 60-acre family farm. It's a little difficult on our scale because fruit is not sanitary by nature, so using fresh fruit in clean beer has proved difficult. Sour beer is a little more forgiving, and we can use Quinstock Farms produce to showcase how unique and special our area truly is through the beer we brew. 

TH: What are the future plans for CIBC?

CS: At this point, we plan to keep CIBC as a distribution-only model beer brand. We are brewing it at Twin Oast, and hope to create a new lineup of creative brews annually. As time goes on, we may add more varieties to the portfolio, but the plan now is to keep it to a flagship and four seasonals per year. 

There are no immediate plans for a taproom space; however, it is not something that is off the table for the future. Because we don't have a taproom, we are planning many tap takeovers at local restaurants and bars to try to get our beer into people's hands a little bit easier. In a way, it's almost like the beer world's version of a food truck -- we don't have one physical spot to visit, but we can partner with other great businesses and set up shop for one-day events. 

If you live in Ohio but are out of the distribution market, you can order directly from the Twin Oast website and have the items shipped right to your door.