Top Rung Brewing Company

Casey Sobol Head Shot
Casey Sobol
Top Rung Brewing Company

Location: Lacey, WA

Founded: 2014

Employees: 5

Course: FastTrac® GrowthVenture™  - Graduated 2016

Affiliate: Thurston Economic Development Council

Build the concept. Top Rung Brewing is a locally focused, 10-barrel producer of craft beers offered by the bottle or keg. Its on-site taproom is a family-friendly destination where craft-beer drinkers enjoy fine brews in the midst of the sights, sounds and smells of the working brew house.

Plan the strategy. Co-founders Jason and Casey are fellow firefighters and craft-beer lovers who initially won local awards for their home brews. Encouraged by that success, they conducted extensive research and market analysis, developed a business plan, attracted investors, and dedicated themselves to providing retail and wholesale establishments with a product that currently can’t be found elsewhere in the Lacey area of the Pacific Northwest’s South Sound — high-quality, affordably priced craft beer that is produced locally. 

Grow the revenue. To help introduce craft-brew patrons to the Top Rung experience and boost demand for their product, Jason and Casey added a family-friendly taproom in the brew house. In addition to enjoying flagship and seasonal brews that are available through other wholesale and retail outlets, tap-room patrons also can choose Limited Release brews that become available only when Top Rung’s choosy brewers determine they are ready.

The team serves warm pretzels and snacks in the taproom. But the business is about brewing, not cooking, so it welcomes a variety of food trucks on Thursdays and Fridays, and patrons are welcome to bring their own food or have it delivered.

A lineup of regular taproom events adds to the fun and attracts customers. For example, the team serves made-to-order smores on the pet-friendly patio during Smores Sundays, and offers one-of-a-kind brews infused with special, often unusual ingredients during Thirsty Thursdays. Special events celebrate the release of new beers, such as the new Trashed Pumpkin Ale for fall 2016. The team publishes a newsletter to keep friends and fans up to date about new brews and special events.

Top Rung’s efforts were recognized when it was named a 2015 New Business of the Year finalist and won the 2015 Gold Medal in Washington Beer Award for its My Dog Scout Stout. As a result, it is on track to double its production from 500 barrels of beer in 2015 to 1,000 barrels this year.

Expand the market. Casey says consistent, manageable growth is key to Top Rung’s expansion plans. He and Jason regularly analyze Top Rung’s SWOT — Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats — and adjust their business plan accordingly. Top Rung’s employees, who the co-founders say are among their most valuable resources, also are empowered to participate and often offer expansion ideas. 

Beginning in late 2016, McCleary plans to expand the club’s popular Holiday Race Series of 5K and 10K runs into St. Joseph, Missouri, and other locales, thus reaching entirely new groups of clients.

Insight/Hindsight. “FastTrac allowed me to put our business under a microscope and evaluate where we have been, where we are and where we are going. It helped ensure that we understand and can apply the key principles of a successful growth strategy.”