Prost Beverage, RF Kettle and Two Trees Distilling are merging to create a new company called Two Trees Beverage. The new company plans to offer beer, wine and spirits innovation for private label, third-party manufacturing and its own line of proprietary brands using the controversial rapid-aging technology.
The company also said it has raised $6 million through a Series A funding round that is expected to close in July.
Rapid-aging is lauded for its speed and sustainability, but purists argue the technology-driven methods are shortcuts and fail to honor the traditional techniques used for centuries.
Consumers increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic as they looked for new beverages to quench their curiosity. Beverage makers have been launching a variety of new options in an attempt to keep drinkers interested and capture some of the segment's recent growth.
Rapid-aging techniques used by Two Trees and other manufacturers not only allows them to innovate more quickly but to ramp-up production with shorter turnaround times instead of having to wait several years for liquor to age using traditional methods. As flavor preferences quickly change, rapid-aging could allow manufacturers to do a better job producing offerings that more closely mirror current trends. The technique often utilizes steel tanks, creating a process users say is more environmentally safe and sustainable.
As younger consumers such as millennials and Gen Zers look for new offerings and shoppers increasingly factor in sustainability when deciding what products to purchase, they might be more inclined to try alcohol made using rapid-aging, benefiting companies like Two Trees.
Not everyone in the alcohol beverage industry backs rapid-aging techniques, however. Old school brewers and distillers argue the technology-driven methods are shortcuts and that the resulting beverages fail to honor the traditional techniques.
"It’s disruptive to put innovation in tradition, some people are uncomfortable with that, but innovation isn’t about doing what is comfortable, it requires change to improve the old ways of doing things,” Chad Slagle, Two Trees' CEO, said in a statement.
The techniques offer small-scale companies and newly launched breweries a way to bring products to market more quickly instead of waiting several years. It also brings down the cost of production and shortens the time it takes for a distiller to receive a profit for each batch. This makes it easier for startup brands to compete with legacy beverage makers.
As alcohol drinkers show a preference for variety in their beverage choices, the ability to experiment with and bring new flavors to market more quickly could be a major benefit for manufacturers. Capturing consumer interest in flavored beverages is already on Two Trees' radar. It offers a variety of flavored products like Carolina Peach, Candy Apple, Crisp Apple, Salted Caramel and Cinnamon Spice, according to Black Mountain News.
Controversy in the industry is not stopping a number of companies from bringing rapid-aged beverages to market. Cleveland Whiskey matures its whiskey for only six months using modern methods, The Wall Street Journal noted. Whiskey Thief takes a similar approach while Los Angeles-based Lost Spirits uses high-intensity light and heat to expedite chemical reactions that otherwise take years.