Bringing Brewing Full Circle From Craft to Culture

By: Quinton Jay

van in front of graffiti wall

In the heart of Fresno, California’s Central Valley, Arthur Moye enters the doors of Full Circle Brewing Co. (FCB), the region’s oldest-running brewery. Some days, he says, he still can’t believe it’s his.

  Prior to purchasing the brewery in 2016 and taking over as its CEO, Moye spent 15 years moonlighting his passion for craft beer as a homebrewer. During the day, he ran his own CPA practice as a successful career accountant, leaning on his academic studies at San Jose State University and prior experience working for two of the nation’s “Big Four” accounting firms to refine his strategic skills with numbers and business acumen.

  But, in true entrepreneurial fashion, Moye eventually wanted more, something that allowed him to blend his technical efficacy, his longstanding passion for craft brewing, and his deeply ingrained want to do more and give back to others within and around his native Bay Area community.

  “I definitely took a leap of faith when I sold my CPA practice to buy FCB,” says Moye, “but something in me knew that it was a chance I had to take. I needed to know if I could combine my experience as an accountant and strategist with my passion for craft beer, and if I could build a business model around the two.”

  Not only did Moye manage to successfully create a business model, but in the first four years after purchasing FCB, he was able to ramp the brewery’s production by some 3,000%. This explosion in production prompted Moye to expand the facility’s older 7.5BBL brewhouse, one that only produced draft beer locally to Fresno’s Central Valley, into a brewhouse with a 15-barrel capacity that was able to package and distribute its uniquely-flavored craft products all across the US.

“Beer” + “Entertainment” = “Beertainment”

  Moye will be the first to admit that he could not have acquired FCB, nor grow it into the Central Valley powerhouse it has since become, fully on his own. Like any tried and true entrepreneur, he knew he needed to rely on two vital components for its success: an empowering vision for what it could become, and the buy-in of the local community into that vision.

  “FCB was here long before I came along,” Moye says, “and so many members of this community wanted to see it revitalized just as I did, but I knew I needed to convince them. I started brainstorming ways we could turn FCB into the heartbeat of the Central Valley’s craft beer and entertainment scene, and the phrase ‘beertainment’ popped into my head.”

  As Moye explains, he not only wanted to create a successful brewery known for its winning craft flavors, but a gathering place where others could converge to disconnect, detach, and simply be mindful in the present moment. So, Moye and his team set out to establish FCB not just as a revitalized brewery, but one that doubled as an event and entertainment venue all under one roof. With his vision now clear, Moye set out marketing FCB’s rebirth to the community in Fresno’s Central Valley, and was fortunate enough to find funding from a group of local investors.

  “I’m not sure if I would call it ‘luck’,” Moye clarifies, “because that might imply that there wasn’t all this effort we put into refining the vision for FCB or acquiring funding to actualize it, but it just made sense that the investors who aligned with the vision were all locals to this area and its community. When you think about venture capital or investments in California, most people tend to think of Silicon Valley and companies like Apple or Tesla—not a craft brewery.”

  Moye’s adherence to his vision for what FCB could become, however, ultimately paid off. In 2016, he was able to acquire the brewery in full and immediately got to work. In 2017, he began reaching out to members of the entertainment industry, making introductions, fostering relationships, and creating partnerships to manifest his vision of “beertainment” for FCB. By the time the brewery had closed its crowd equity campaign and canned its first product of craft beer in 2018, FCB had already experienced triple-digit growth.

  With his vision and business model for FCB’s rebirth now in full swing, Moye started signing agreements with distributors throughout California to get his product in front of more customers in 2019. Less than a year later, FCB’s brand was being placed on shelves at major retail stores throughout the Golden State.

  But as Moye and his team at FCB would soon find out, not all that glitters is gold; even in California. Just months after FCB’s craft beer landed on shelves throughout his home state — each can sporting his coined phrase, “beertainment” — a new threat to business emerged in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pivoting to Find Value Amidst a Pandemic

  In mid-March of 2020, the world was wracked by the WHO’s declaration of the COVID-19 virus as an official global pandemic. All across the country, businesses that weren’t deemed to be “essential” were forced to close their doors virtually overnight, leaving Moye and his team at FCB scratching their heads as to how they could keep their business (and its vision) afloat. With the threat of a pandemic looming overhead, the “entertainment” aspect of FCB’s “beertainment” draw was shut down, so Moye had to once again get creative with his strategy in order to help his fledgling business survive.

  “During the pandemic, two of the most famous venues in town closed, one of which had been open for over 50 years,” says Moye. “FCB had taken over ownership of that venue, but we had to close it during the pandemic since it had no outdoor seating. My team and I put our heads together and collectively brainstormed ways we could pivot the business.”

  Ultimately, Moye and his team at FCB managed to keep their business alive by regularly hosting virtual shows with comedians, musicians, and other artists over Zoom. At the same time, they doubled down on FCB’s packaging and distribution, getting larger amounts of their craft beers into chain stores and craft liquor stores in California and 6 other states. They also picked up another brand, Sonoma Cider, and implemented their own iteration of a D2C sales model, deemed Full Circle 2 Go (FC2G), at a time when omnichannel retailing in the beer & wine industry was taking off in the US.

   “Running a brewery is one thing,” Moye adds, “but running a brewery that doubles as an entertainment venue also requires employees who can manage things like sound and security. When the pandemic forced us to shut down, suddenly these employees had no key role, so we asked them what their other skills are in order to keep them on board. Our security guards were repurposed as delivery drivers, and our venue’s promoter became the program director for FC2G.”

  As Moye explains, in a matter of mere months, the revenue from FC2G was able to match the revenue earned from their entertainment venue. Furthermore, by being able to pivot not only his brewery’s business model, but also the roles of his employees during the height of the pandemic, Moye was able to foster greater loyalty amongst his employees with FCB’s brand while simultaneously providing value to his brewery’s community. Now, nearly two years since the pandemic began, FCB still hosts comedy shows every Sunday night and has since been able to reopen its entertainment venue to more musical artists, albeit at lessened capacity.

Do What You Love, and You’ll Want to Work Every Day of Your Life

  Despite the onset and lingering effects of the pandemic, brewing craft beer has remained a thriving industry. With an economic impact of over $9 billion in California alone, Moye remains dedicated to his original vision for FCB as a communal hub where anyone and everyone can come together to unwind, destress, and share in their mutual love for uniquely-flavored craft beer and live entertainment.

   Additionally, as a black entrepreneur, craft brewer, and business owner, Moye is grateful that he is able to allow FCB to contribute towards the 1% of black majority-owned craft breweries in the US. Though black majority-owned craft breweries are still a distinct outlier in the industry, Moye hopes to see more post-pandemic events and gatherings like Barrel & Flow fest bringing black-owned-and-operated breweries together to celebrate Black arts, artists, and creators to help foster deeper DEI initiatives within the craft beer space.

  “It’s a little funny to me whenever I mention the ‘1%’ thing,” Moye adds, “because I still get responses from people like, ‘why does it have to be a black thing?’ But it’s not just about that—it’s a craft brew thing. It’s about finding a tribe of people who support you and your vision. It’s about finding other black-owned businesses breweries that support you because you all want to see more diversity, more inclusion, more representation, and more equity in the craft beer space. When you’re able to find those feelings in what you love to do, your work doesn’t feel like work.”

  It’s rare that we are able to find ourselves in a career that allows us to blend our technical acumen, interpersonal skills, and passions. Although, perhaps this is what makes the draw of craft brewing so attractive to so many. It grants those of us with a deeply-rooted love for craft beer to build a community around our ardor and share our enthusiasm with others, regardless of who or where they are.

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