The Matt Brewing Company, the fourth-generation family business led by Fred Matt ’81 was recently featured in the Democrat and Chronicle. Matt is the president and CEO and the article discusses how the business is a “prime example” of a “family-run business that strives to be a part of the community.”
Matt earned a B.A. in economics from Hobart College. He has returned for reunion to host beer tastings and talk about the business.
The full story is below:
Democrat and Chronicle
CEO, president of Matt Brewing in Utica talk about its history
Bryan Clutz and Adam Travis • August 22, 2011
Buying local is a trendy topic these days. A family-run business that strives to be a part of the community is even better. The Matt Brewing Company in Utica, Oneida County, is a prime example.
Founded in 1888, the third and fourth generations of the Matt family are now running the show – with Fred Matt, great grandson of founder F.X. Matt I, as its current president and chief operating offer. Recently, Adam had the opportunity to sit down with Fred and his uncle, Nick Matt, chairman and chief executive of the company. The two shared the brewery’s history and goals for the future.
F.X. Matt I began his career at the Duke of Baden Brewery in the Black Forest region of Germany. He immigrated to the United States in 1885 with the dream of founding his own brewery.
Within a few years, he was selling and brewing beer for the most successful of the 12 breweries in the Utica area at the time. F.X. adopted his new American home to the fullest, and he never again spoke a word of German. Many employees were German immigrants, and he encouraged them to do the same.
During Prohibition, the brewery supported itself by switching to soft drinks and making alcoholic products with alcohol by volume below 2.75 percent (which was still legal). Because of this effort, the company survived – and not a single worker lost their job.
When Congress came to its senses and Prohibition was repealed, the Matt family received the first license to brew again and immediately stopped making soft drinks. Utica Club became the brewery’s flagship brand, with the special honor of being the first legal post-Prohibition beer to be sold.
Under the leadership of Walter Matt, F.X. Matt’s son and the company’s second president, the Utica Club brand soared, thanks in part to its popular “spokes-steins,” Schultz and Dooley (whose fame continues on YouTube).
In 1980, Walter’s son, F.X. Matt II, took over the reins as president. The brewery took advantage of the craft beer revolution and launched the now well-known Saranac brand in 1985. The Saranac brand has won numerous awards, including for top premium lager at the 1991 Great American Beer Festival for the Amber Lager (now known as the Adirondack Lager). Saranac Pale Ale also won a silver medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup.
Nick Matt became president in 1989 and continued the brewery’s focus on craft and seasonal brews, as well as returning to the production of premium soft drinks. Saranac introduced the sampler pack as a way to test market new brews that were in production, and this marketing strategy has become a popular packaging option throughout the nation, and as beer reviewers, a great way to try new beers without having to commit to a six-pack.
Not all brews succeed, of course. During my visit, we joked about the disaster of the Wildberry Wheat from a few years ago. On the other hand, Pomegranate Wheat is one of Adam’s favorite summertime sippers.
This focus on variety is what makes Saranac one of our favorite brands. When the new seasonal sampler packs start showing up in the beer coolers, we know for sure that the seasons are changing. With a turnaround time of about 90 days for packaging production, 30 to 45 days for brewing, and another several weeks for distribution, we’re starting to see fall seasonals appearing now.
Considering all of these seasonal sampler packs, we wondered just how many different kinds of beer the brewery produces. Neither of the Matts knew off the top of their heads, so after some quick fact checking, they let us know that the brewery produced 34 beer styles last year, including the retail production contract for the Lake Placid Brew Pub.
So what does the future hold for this brewery?
This weekend, brewery employees and friends will be heading to the town of Bridgewater for a hops picking party. The yield will be used in a special Saranac brew.
Nick remembers his grandfather visiting local farms on Sundays to purchase hops for the week’s brew. This new partnership again demonstrates Matt Brewing’s commitment to its history as well as to its local community.