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Green Flash Is Not Dead

New management and a big rebranding campaign bring Mira Mesa's largest brewery back into the game
A major rebranding campaign is at the heart of Green Flash's new identity

By Bruce Glassman | all photos by Bruce Glassman

There’s been a good deal of confusion and misinformation surrounding Green Flash Brewing ever since the company announced major financial woes almost exactly a year ago. Much of the confusion was due to a pervading sense of shock and dread about the future of San Diego brewing. How could such a large, seemingly successful, acclaimed brewery end up in bank foreclosure? That wasn’t supposed to happen. Not in our world.

The details of the downfall are left for another (much longer) article; this article is to say that reports of Green Flash’s death were greatly exaggerated. In fact, now that new management has had some time to put their financial house in order, the company has launched a big rebranding campaign to get the word out to everyone: Green Flash is back!

“We’re more engaged than ever in reestablishing ourselves as one of San Diego’s craft beer innovators,” says new CEO Michael Taylor. “We are investing in people, innovation, and equipment at the brewery to produce even more innovative products than ever before. And we’ll be engaging with consumers in more new and unique ways than ever before.”

Taylor explains that the company has made fundamental changes since he took the helm about nine months ago. Most important is a renewed effort to connect in meaningful ways with customers and to refocus on strengthening relationships with retailers and distributors.

With the company’s financial collapse in 2018 came some unavoidable casualties. Green Flash’s two largest infrastructure investments—Cellar 3 and their Virginia Beach production brewery, for example—shut down. Supply chains ruptured, as did many longstanding business relationships that had to be revisited, revised, and restructured.

Despite all the challenges and changes, a lot has stayed the same. Green Flash is still an independent craft brewery, with ownership consisting of one institutional investor and a majority of ownership held by individuals. It still owns the Alpine Beer Company brand and operates its pub and tasting room in East County (where Shawn McIlhenny is still the brewmaster). The Green Flash Brewhouse and Eatery in Lincoln, Nebraska also remains in operation.

Green Flash Is Not Dead

Green Flash Is Not Dead

CEO Michael Taylor speaks about the company’s new focus on celebrating San Diego

As far as Green Flash Mira Mesa goes, it will surprise many to learn that most of the pre-crisis brewing team is intact. Erik Jensen remains at the helm as brewmaster (he took over when Chuck Silva left in 2015) and he continues to pursue a brewing program that builds mostly on revising and refining the recipes that have always been cornerstones of the company. “Our beers are tasting better than ever, in my opinion,” Jensen says, “but we have reformulated some of them a bit. We responded to our loyal consumers with a change in our flagship West Coast IPA. After digging through our archives, we found the original seven percent ABV recipe and have now released that beer back into the marketplace. Soul Style has been tweaked by lowering the IBUs and changing the bittering hops to make it a smoother and more refreshing IPA. We have evolved our GFB blonde ale by toning down the malt character and lowering the IBUs to make the beer much more drinkable on a hot summer day.”

Along with the retweaked recipes inside the bottles came the redesign and rebranding of all packaging, including the iconic Green Flash logo. “Early on, it was apparent that the old packaging was missing the mark in at least two key ways,” CEO Taylor explains. “First, there was no reference to San Diego as our home, and second, there was no definition of what Green Flash stood for.” Taylor believes that San Diego is an “aspirational city and beer community” and he felt it was critical to create new packaging that showed people how proud the company is to call San Diego home.

Green Flash Is Not Dead

Green Flash Is Not Dead

Brewmaster Erik Jensen remains at the helm of Green Flash’s brewing team

Company research also showed that consumers were confused by what “Green Flash” actually meant. Evidently, many assumed it was a comic book hero (perhaps a cross between Green Lantern and the Flash) as opposed to its intended reference, which is the rare optical phenomenon that can sometimes be seen in the final moment of a sunset.  “We decided to define Green Flash through our manifesto, which is now prominently featured on each bottle and can,” Taylor says. The manifesto reads,

Part legend, part luck, the elusive green flash is a San Diego sensation. But, to us, it’s more than a burst of brilliant green light as the sun sets into the sea—it’s a magical moment that signals the end of an extraordinary day and the start of an epic night on the horizon.

The new labels and bulk packaging are a radical visual departure from what came before. The current designs are bright, airy, dynamic images that depict the Southern California lifestyle in primary colors. Scenes of skateboarding, surfing, coastline, and palm trees are just some of the illustrations that adorn the new generation of products.

The Green Flash team knows they have a challenging mission to reacquaint San Diego craft fans with their beer. So what’s the one message they most want those fans to hear? Taylor makes it plain and simple: “Try our beers again and give us a chance to surprise you. We don’t think you will be disappointed. Our beers have never tasted better.”

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Green Flash Is Not Dead

A major rebranding campaign is at the heart of Green Flash’s new identity

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