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Report: First State Brewing named top growing craft brewery

Katie Tabeling

First State Brewing and OtherSide Beverage forged a strong partnership that propelled First State Brewing as one of the top growing breweries on Untappd. | PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFF HORNE

MIDDLETOWN — First State Brewing Company has been named one of the fastest growing breweries in the country based on check-in numbers, according to data from a popular craft beer social network.

Next Glass, parent company to the beer social network known as Untappd, recently released a report on the Top 25 Fastest Growing Breweries in the U.S. from 2020 to 2022. That report shows that First State Brewing registered 3,191% more visits based on customers logging the company’s beer on the app.

First State Brewing opened in 2020 and counted 610 check-ins on Untappd. This year, there were more than 20,000 drinks registered.

“We were a bit surprised to be at the top of the list, but after doing some reflection with our management team and how our business model changed, it makes sense,” First State Brewing founder and CEO Paul Hester said.

Before opening the brewery in 2020, Hester served as an executive director in global technology and cybersecurity for JPMorgan Chase & Co. But for years had been drafting a business plan that would lead him to pursue his entrepreneurial passions.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it forced First State Brewing to pivot its plans and launch in distribution faster. The company invested in a canning line early and targeting liquor stores and off-site sales through a partnership with OtherSide Beverage. While there were challenges with the global can shortage, Hester said it paid back in dividends.

“We were brewing to perfect our recipes, but the pandemic really threw us for a loop,” he said. “We hit the ground running with our canning line, and hit the ground running with distributing in our state. Now we’ve since expanded to Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.”

Unlike other breweries that may focus on establishing a core menu first, First State Brewing puts variety at the forefront. That means the brewery places focus on rotating styles and flavors, while maintaining three core beers as regulars.

Hester estimates that First State Brewing has released more than 40 unique beer flavors last year.

“Everyone likes variety. At best, we brew the same style twice a year and we try to do a large amount in different styles,” he said. “Compared to a few decades ago, there’s not a lot of brand loyalists out there — people like to spend their hard-earned money on something new.”

“We also found that if they’re fans of past products, they tend to reach for the next new thing that comes on the market. It allows for excitement,” Hester added.

Looking ahead, Hester said First State Brewing is still considering distribution markets but the next move may be to turn the attention back to the tap room and the beer itself.

“We’ve entertained the idea of a second tap room, though it’s premature to say where,” he said. “We want to keep doing what we do: make the best beer we can and continue to put out a quality product.”


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