International expansion: Arbor Brewing Co. owners plan three-month trip to India for brewpub opening
After years of planning, Matt and Rene Greff are leaving soon for a three-month trip to India to oversee the opening of the first international Arbor Brewing Co. location.
The Greffs, who own both Ann Arbor’s Arbor Brewing Co. and Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery, are opening a brewpub location in Bangalore, India in a partnership with University of Michigan graduate Gaurav Sikka.
Photo courtesy of Matt Greff
“Construction is under way,” she said. “There has already been a chef hired and they are working on menu development.”
To help send the couple off, Arbor Brewing Co. is hosting a farewell party on Nov. 15 with Indian food and beer specials. The Greffs even plan to perform a “Bollywood dance” they choreographed.
The farewell party marks the culmination of years of planning and several trips to India.
Years ago, Sikka, an Arbor Brewing Co. regular, approached the Greffs about starting a brewpub in his hometown of Bangalore.
Rene Greff’s initial response: “Absolutely not.”
“I couldn’t imagine anything more frightening,” she said.
But after exploring the idea and traveling to India in 2009, Greff said she realized the concept could work.
“In terms of brewpubs, India is exactly where the U.S. was in the late 70s, early 80s,” she said. “State by state, India is starting to legalize brewpubs and [Sikka] thinks there’s going to be a huge market for microbreweries there.”
Under the deal with Sikka, the Greffs retain a 5 percent ownership stake in Arbor Brewing Co., India Ltd. They will also serve as consultants on the project.
Greff said Sikka’s plan is to open this location, and then eventually franchise the concept.
While the Greffs are in India for three months, they plan to oversee the installation of the brewery and train the staff.
Then, they will monitor the brewpub’s finances each month and make a trip back to India at least once a year to audit the operation and attend a board meeting.
Greff said the Arbor Brewing Co. in India will be strikingly similar to the Ann Arbor location, with a comparable menu and feel.
“We’re trying to get sort of a very similar feel,” she said. “There are some ways it’s going to be very connected.”
“The beer will be very similar, and some will be exactly the same. The food menu will be surprisingly similar, too, because young people there want to see this kind of food,” she continued.
She said the recipes will be altered a little with different spices and locally available products. For instance, Arbor Brewing Co.’s “Strawberry Blonde” beer in Ann Arbor will be a “Mango Blonde” in India.
But aside from the beer and food, Greff said she wanted the India location to have similar values, including a focus on community involvement, the proper treatment of staff and purchasing local products.
“We wanted to make sure the whole ethos of the business carried over,” she said.
While this marks the first international expansion for Arbor Brewing Co., Greff isn’t completely ruling out future expansions.
“We’re not going to rush into doing something else,” she laughed. “I think the India venture will keep us quite busy.”
“But we’ve gotten inquiries from people all over the world, and I wouldn’t mind spending my winters in Costa Rica,” she continued.