Runnymede Investments purchases Smuttynose

Runnymede Investments of North Hampton will buy Smuttynose Brewing Company from The Provident Bank for an undisclosed amount and intends to revitalize the struggling craft beer staple, the brewery announced Friday.

Chris Broom Jr., of Runnymede said he was excited to invest in New Hampshire’s largest craft brewery, crediting founder Peter Egelston and his partner Joanne Francis for assembling “a great team and an impressive production facility,” a press release from Smuttynose stated.

“We’re taking a long view and plan on making immediate investments to strengthen the brand and return to growth,” Broom said.

The Provident Bank bought back the company in a March 9 foreclosure auction for $8.25 million and began talks with potential buyers shortly after. Egelston will remain president of the brewery and work closely with Rich Lindsay, an experience brewery industry executive whom Runnymede plans to put in place as Smuttynose’s CEO, according to Smuttynose.

Smuttynose spokewoman Barbara MacLeod said it was unclear whether Egelston will remain president for the long-term or leave after overseeing a smooth transition.

Lindsay has held executive roles at Samuel Adams, Tuthilltown Spirits and Night Shift Brewing, according to Smuttynose. He has had close ties with Egelston, the company said, and has also been a consultant for numerous startups in the alcoholic beverage industry.

Egelston, who opened Smuttynose on Heritage Avenue in Portsmouth in 1994, announced the sale in January, citing industry changes like the recent boom of microbreweries as key factors in Smuttynose’s financial struggles. He and Francis said in statements Friday they were pleased with Runnymede as Smuttynose’s new buyer. Francis said she was grateful their future was no longer “in limbo.”

“All of us here at Smuttynose are eager to turn the page and start our next chapter,” Egelston said. “We are pleased to know that we’ll be working with investors from within our own community, people who are familiar with our brand and appreciate what we’ve built here.”

MacLeod said Runnymede declined to give an interview Friday. The company is a family-owned investment firm headquartered in North Hampton about five miles from the Smuttynose location, according to the press release. Runnymede specializes in real estate, private equity and venture capital.

Lindsay said he looks forward to “building upon the Smuttynose brand’s legacy.” To improve growth, he said the hope is to hire new sales staff and equip them with “resources to make them effective in this competitive market.”

He also said the brewery plans to add a canning line, as Egelston said the rise in popularity of cans contributed to Smuttynose’s financial struggles. The Towle Farm facility has a bottling line, installed when bottling was still considered the favored container for craft beer by consumers. Brewing industry members say the shift to cans occurred over just a few years, catching companies like Smuttynose by surprise.

Lindsay said a canning line allows Smuttynose to “participate in a growing segment of the craft beer market.”

The sale included the brand as well as the brewery’s $24 million state-of-the-art, LEED-Gold certified facility and adjacent Hayseed Restaurant at Smuttynose’s 13-acre campus at 105 Towle Farm Road in Hampton.