247 SPORTS.COM | CRT trusts Swilled Dog with next chapter: ‘Great-tasting bourbon’
By Mike Casazza
Eight weeks of Country Roads Trust Lager sales generated about $30,000 for the name, image and likeness collective supporting West Virginia Univerity sports. In the 90 or so minutes 1863 WV Gold, a special bourbon produced by Swilled Dog for the collective, generated about $23,000 in royalties.
“If we can do a quarter-million dollars in alcohol licensing sales — royalties — that’s found money,” said Stephen Ford, the general manager and chief operating officer at Country Roads Trust, told EerSports at the bourbon’s official launch party Wednesday. “We really don’t have to lift a finger except for trusting our partner with its brand.”
The trust’s partnership with Big Timber for the lager was the beginning, and the collaboration with Swilled Dog is the next chapter. A limited release on Nov. 30 sold out quickly and produced a handsome chunk of money. Bottles are flying off shelves now, despite purchase limits, and future releases will stock the same shelves in the future. Ford said there are different royalty scales but the trust figures to level out at about 20 percent on average.
This is fine for Swilled Dog, an in-state brand that started tinkering with small batches of cider in 2015 and has branched out to create different award-winning spirits. CEO Brooke Glover serves on the Distilled Spirits Craft Advisory Council, which keeps her up to date on industry happenings around the country, but she also played volleyball at WVU.
Glover walked on as a true freshman and earned a scholarship that same year before knee injuries ended her career. Her younger brother, Chance Litton, wrestled for the Mountaineers.
“I wish (NIL) would have been around when I was here playing,” Glover told EerSports. “We didn’t have this when I was here. For the most part, this is a way for us to give love to Mountaineer fans and make them feel special for their loyalty and everything they put into it.
“This brings people together. It’s part of the community. People around the country are looking for a way to support athletics from afar, but even right now, there are universities that just aren’t open to doing many things like this.”
Swilled Dog was watching when Big Timber paired with the trust and was waiting to make its move when the time was right. A need to raise support intersected with a need to offer support. Sports met spirits. Mountaineers met merriment. You could see where this was headed.
“For me, getting to see things play out in real time and see the economics being it, we had the thought to do this, but we needed to make sure we had our ducks in a row before approaching the collective,” Glover said. “We didn’t want to come to them and say, ‘We’re not quite ready, but in the future, we want to do this.’ We needed to be ready.”
They were prepared, and that included producing the bourbon and anticipating the response. Glover said the initial reaction was “exactly what we were expecting,” because Swilled Dog, headquartered in Upper Tract, understood the loyalty of WVU fans and the sense of urgency to help the Mountaineers in the NIL era.
“They’re looking to support their team, but they get something out of it, too,” she said. “They get a really great-tasting bourbon, in my opinion.”
Swilled Dog will continue to produce batches, provide income for the trust and please the bourbon enthusiasts with an evolving offering.
“Every batch is going to be different,” Glover said. “The idea with beer is to be consistent, but in our world, consistency is important for something like Buffalo Trace or something for when people want to know what they’re going to get every single time. When you’re doing small batches, when you’re doing something premium, when you’re doing small barrels, you want it to be something different.
“People want to taste the difference and say, ‘This one is a little bit different than the last one.’ Well, yeah, we had it aging in a different place in the warehouse. We had different corn from a different part of the field. There are a lot of different things that could go into it.”