Few people in coffee can match Strother Simpson’s historical perspective on the massive growth of the cold brew segment in recent years.
While many new cold-brewers are just now getting into the game — through brewing behind the counter, in larger production facilities or through private-label relationships — Simpson has been peddling cold coffee through various ventures since 1986, when after college he joined his father Todd Simpson’s company. Todd Simpson, of course, founded the Toddy cold brew brand, which remains the most familiar name in cold brewing today.
With the exception of a few recent years outside the cold brew business, Strother Simpson’s entire career has since been spent in and around cold brew and liquids. Asked whether he’s ever seen anything like the recent growth of cold brew, Simpson told Daily Coffee News simply, “No,” adding, “Now it’s just going crazy.”
Simpson’s most recent venture in cold brew is Brew n Bottle, a production-brewing and cold-brew product development company that also offers services in bottling and packaging, as well as behind-the-counter cold-brewing equipment. Since launching in April, Brew n Bottle has already secured dozens of accounts, including numerous national accounts, catering to them through a partnership with the Texas-based aloe vera processing and drink manufacturing company Lily of the Desert.
With brewed beverages or extracts in any number of styles of individual bottles or commercial liquid totes or drums, Simpson said the company can easily scale operations to accommodate large national accounts seeking space in convenience stores, down to shops that simply can’t keep up with behind-the-counter production demand. The Brew n Bottle equipment is up and running inside the more than 400,000-square-foot Lily of the Valley production facility, where staff for the coffee-and-tea related operation is also provided.
“We’re a custom house,” said Simpson, adding that proprietary 500-pound custom brewers are at the heart of the operation. “We’re not looking to build our own brand, but we’re looking for partners who are looking for a quality product and who want to have some stability for something that truly tastes like you’re brewing behind the counter.”
While hesitant to get into too many details about the cold-brewing and filtration processes involved in the Brew n Bottle method, Simpson likened the process to those at large-scale distilleries such as Jack Daniels, and said the company’s proprietary “polishing process” results in unprecedented stability. Said Simpson, “The majority of the products we’re doing are refrigerated, but those are good for six months.”
Simpson said he began “toying around” with the 500-pound brewer concept while taking an official break from the coffee business after selling his liquid business to S&D Coffee & Tea in 2008, and selling the Toddy business two years later. A non-compete clause expired earlier this year, and Simpson officially launched Brew n Bottle in April, just before the annual Specialty Coffee Association of America Expo, where he picked up numerous big accounts.
“I seem to have something that people are excited about,” Simpson said. “Out of the chute we have some huge opportunities ahead of us.”