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RIP Arcadia Ales and Mystic Brewery

Over the past week I learned about the closing/impending closing of two of the breweries I featured on my ride: Arcadia Ales in Kalamazoo, MI and Mystic Brewery in Chelsea, MA.

As you can see from my ratings, these were both breweries I thought quite highly of. The closings were also somewhat shocking because both breweries had been around for quite a while: Arcadia originally opened in Battle Creek in 1996 and moved to a bigger facility in Kalamazoo in 2014. Mystic opened in 2011 and has been in the same location throughout its existence.

At the same time, Arcadia’s closing can’t be considered a total surprise. Their expansion into Kalamazoo was a bit too rapid, and they were never able to get out of debt after that. In fact, the bank foreclosed on them this past spring, though I wasn’t aware of that fact when I visited in July. So the closing now was really just a matter of the bank deciding they’d have a better shot at recouping their money if they shut down Arcadia and sold the building to a new business rather than trying to sell Arcadia as an ongoing business.

Mystic’s closing is a bit more surprising. As I mentioned, they never changed locations. They’d actually had plans to open a bigger facility in Malden last year, but they scrapped those plans in July. Based on a conversation I had with the bartender the last time I was there, my best guess is this: Originally, Mystic focused on Belgian styles, and I thought they did a great job of that. Two or three years ago, they decided to get into the IPA business because there are all those crazy people out there who won’t drink any beer that doesn’t have enough hops to kill a small child. That said, they did a really good job with milkshake IPAs and soon had lines out the door to buy them. However, they responded to the long lines by overproducing. As a result, they couldn’t sell the IPAs fast enough, and since the crazy people won’t drink IPAs that were canned more than 48 hours ago, they wound up losing money on beers they couldn’t sell.

The moral of all this is that, while the craft beer market isn’t quite over-saturated yet, it’s pretty much at the point of saturation. This leaves very little margin for error on the breweries’ parts, and any brewery that winds up too deeply in the red will find it impossible to recover, even if the beer itself is high quality.

Anyway, I just wanted to write this both as a tribute to two breweries I enjoyed on my ride (you can find the relevant posts here and here) and to give some thoughts on the quickening pace of brewery closings. And finally, here are the photos I took at each. Hopefully their closings can inspire someone else to make beer just as good!

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