Market Basket: Drewrys' return

Chicago businessman trying to bring back nostalgic regional beer

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Chicago entrepreneur Frank Manzo is moving ahead with plans to revive a local retro brand.

To produce a limited edition brew within the next six to nine months.

To bring back Drewrys.

Local residents might remember the smell of fermentation wafting through the Muessel Grove neighborhood. The smokestack at Elwood and Portage avenues served as a prominent South Bend landmark for decades and advertisements touted the product as "Less filling, more satisfying" than other beers.

It was the Big D.

Manzo acquired the nostalgic Drewrys trademark and incorporated as the Drewrys Brewing Co. behind-the-scenes in the last two years. He admits the investment would prove too much to renovate the old plant for production.

So he started talking just this week to small local brewers who may be interested in making a limited-edition quantity, for starters.

On Saturday, the Drewrys name appeared on a booth at downtown South Bend's Brewfest event and company representatives detailed plans for the brand revival to area beer lovers.

Small and independent craft brewers have seen strong sales growth across the U.S. and also right here in Michiana, with a growing number of beer drinkers looking for unique local choices as opposed to popular brands made by the mega brewers.

In just the last five years, Bare Hands Brewery started in Granger, Four Horsemen launched in South Bend and Iechyd Da debuted in Elkhart; South Bend Brew Werks is planning a location in downtown South Bend.

Part of the appeal of Drewrys will be the nostalgia.

Many remember the Muessel Brewing complex, or knew someone who worked there. The popular regional beer was produced there until the 1970s when it was taken over by G. Heileman Brewing Co. and later closed.

"I want to bring it back to where consumers remember the brand and the label," Manzo says. "The name has a leg up on all the other craft beers out there, and it's what will make us different."

The Drewrys name will appear on a planned line of low-priced beers, while Manzo has also trademarked the Holihan brand name for a new craft beer line.

The recipe will be different from what area residents remember, Manzo explains, and will be created by a master brewer. He will target select distributors that specialize in lower priced and craft beers, the latter of which is a growing category of beer sales.

But first things first.

Manzo is now lining up the financing for the venture, which includes finding investors.

He has commenced the initial public stock offering, and so far more than 26,000 shares have been purchased at 10 cents per stock, he says. The registration statement filed with the Security and Exchange Commission says the stock is being sold in $100 increments. The filing cautions investors of a possible total loss because the investment is high-risk.

Manzo owns Appletree Capital Ltd, a private Chicago-based investment and business consulting firm that incubates small businesses. He is also president of two other companies that are in the development stages, according to the SEC filing.

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