A big change in Kingston’s craft beer industry became official on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, but consumers might not even notice a difference.
Spearhead Brewing Company will now be owned and operated by the owners of Skeleton Park Brewery under a new parent company called Spearhead Brewing Incorporated, which also owns the recently purchased Signal Brewery in Corbyville.
While officially Spearhead becomes the property of Skeleton Park CEO Trevor Lehoux and his two business partners, it will remain business as usual for the over 10-year-old brewery.
Lehoux said he could not share the financial details of the two sales.
When it comes to Spearhead, Lehoux said that, from a consumer standpoint, the purchase will look more like a merger than a takeover, as Skeleton Park plans to keep Spearhead as the separate, recognizable entity it already is.
“We recognize the power of having these brands being very independent and very separate from one another,” Lehoux said.
“Each one is doing its own thing that’s doing a great thing. Skeleton Park has great brand recognition, Spearhead has a great following as well.”
There could eventually be some slight tweaks at Spearhead as its new owners get accustomed to the business, but Lehoux says he doesn’t expect drastic changes. For now, things will continue without skipping a beat.
“They’ve created a pretty decent legacy already and there’s no way that we should be tossing anything over our shoulders,” Lehoux said.
“We’re going to get in there and make improvements on what they have built already.”
For Skeleton Park Brewery, which Lehoux said has seen relatively consistent growth since after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing in two additional businesses allows the brewery to stretch its dollar when it comes to the order of raw materials. The craft beer industry has been and continues to be hit hard by inflation and rising costs, so an opportunity to get a better deal on supplies makes sense.
“If we combine these two businesses, we can utilize more on things like bulk purchases with our suppliers to be able to get more discounts,” Lehoux said.
“So we started formulating a plan… if we start implementing these things for the amount of beer that we’re producing, we might be able to do it cheaper if we amalgamate these two businesses together, so to speak.”
Lehoux said that operating both breweries can be sustainable, as both approach the business in very different ways. Skeleton Park is more focused on recreating pre-prohibition-era beer recipes and being local-centric, while Spearhead stays true to its “beer without boundaries” slogan, standing out through the use of some unconventional beer ingredients and promoting inclusivity in the industry.
Despite the number of breweries in Kingston and within a half hour of the city, Lehoux said he doesn’t feel like craft brewing in Kingston is a crowded industry, as everyone in the business is doing things differently enough to complement one another, and not get in each other’s way.
“The only way that it ever gets crowded is when the breweries start stepping on each other’s toes and start branding themselves too much alike,” Lehoux said.
“We’re all doing our thing… we’re all coexisting very nicely.”
In addition to Spearhead, Lehoux and his partners have also purchased Signal Brewery in Corbyville. Signal Brewery has been listed as “temporarily closed” for months, being put up for sale following the death of its founder in December 2021. The business was the center of some COVID-19-related controversy, but Lehoux said, in spite of that, its founder was a “visionary” who created a strong legacy that they intend to continue.
While the business hasn’t been operational for a while, the building is fully outfitted to resume brewing at a moment’s notice — after a team is put together to run the space. Lehoux said it’s a lofty goal, but he hopes to see Signal up and running again in two to three weeks.
Jokingly saying that he’s “absolutely terrified,” Lehoux said that this entire purchase process has happened rather quickly and is certainly overwhelming, but that they’re ready to take on the challenge.
“The way it’s all unfolded, it was all really, really unexpected,” Lehoux said. However, the brewery owner noted, “We have planned this out quite diligently.”
Owen Fullerton is a Kingston-based reporter with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI).