In what may possibly a sign of the slowing growth of the craft beer industry or increasing competition in the tank building industry, Portland’s Metalcraft Fabrication quietly ceased operations recently. Co-founder Charlie Frye was an industry fabrication veteran and Metalcraft one of the craft beer world’s most successful service and support companies, we profiled Metalcraft in 2014. Metalcraft became a pioneer in brewhouse and tank fabrication by attempting to innovate and improve on existing designs, like its recent collaboration with Pelican Brewing on a new Dry-Hop Injection Vessel. We caught up with Charlie after he was able to sort out enough of the business and legal hurdles associated with a business closing to answer a few questions for us.
The New School: Rumor has it Metalcraft Fabrication shut its doors recently. Is this true?
Charlie Frye: Yes. After 10 years of operation, having built over 1000 tanks in 30 states and 3 continents, Metalcraft laid off 35 of the best team members in the industry.
NS: It seemed like seven years ago Metalcraft Fabrication was one of the hottest new brewery fabrication companies in the country and it was a shocker to hear you are closing. Does a decrease in the number of breweries opening have anything to do with it?
CF: A number of factors contributed to Metalcraft’s demise. The greatest one being several unforeseen challenges associated with our expansion.
NS: I understand you have a few brewhouse or tank projects that are still in the works. What will happen with those?
CF: I am working with another manufacturer to complete the unfinished projects. This is my number one priority at this time.
NS: How about brewers that have brewhouses built by Metalcraft, will they be able to get the service they need?
CF: A few of our key team members are working independently and may be available to offer support depending on the circumstance. If one of our customers has an issue, they should call or email me and I will work with them on getting the help they need.
NS: Is there anything you would do differently, or advice you would give to other folks in the business?
CF: Metalcraft grew very quickly and we did our best to do so responsibly and took the advice of experienced individuals along the way. I’ve learned that despite any one person’s experience and/or success, unless they have something to lose, their advice should be taken with a grain of salt. Additionally, a business owner should always be aware that their finances are in order and those trusted to manage them are qualified to do so.
NS: What is the next thing for you and Metalcraft?
CF: First things first: work to find solutions to help the customers with jobs in limbo to get the equipment they’ve ordered.
I would like to express sincere gratitude to those who have supported Metalcraft and me personally over the past decade. As this chapter in my life takes this turn, I’m proud of my team’s ability to produce some of the finest equipment for the best craft breweries in the world.