For most Canadians, their homebrewed beer choice is typically Labatts or Molson.
But countryman and IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe is starting to get some traction with his own beer brand, Hinchtown Hammer Down (HHD).
According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, HHD sales have gone through the roof, increasing 211 percent in 2013 and 249 percent this year. Sales are expected to increase another 230 percent for 2015.
“To realize sales increases like this is really difficult,” Sean O’Conner, Hinchcliffe’s business partner, told the Indianapolis Business Journal. “I think it shows we have something pretty special.”
Meeting in 2012 through a mutual friend, Hinchcliffe and O’Conner, who had opened a company known as Flat 12 Bierworks in Indianapolis a year earlier, became fast friends.
It was a seemingly perfect partnership, according to the IBJ: Hinchcliffe, a native of Toronto, loves beer and O’Connor of Indianapolis loves auto racing. After tipping back a few, the pair decided to pool their resources.
“The whole thing happened pretty quickly,” Hinchcliffe told IBJ. “It almost happened on a laugh.”
The brew started out being sold on tap in Indianapolis-area restaurants and bars, and earlier this year began being sold in cans and bottles at stores and other retail establishments.
But this is not just a micro-brewery that plans to be a controlled distribution brand. It recently expanded to Tennessee and plans are in the works to grow to neighboring Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky – and Hinchcliffe’s homeland.
Former Indianapolis Motor Speedway chief of staff and IndyCar Series senior vice president Ken Ungar praises Hinchcliffe’s business acumen.
“James is one of the best personalities in motorsports today, and not just in IndyCar,” Ungar, founder of US Sports Advisors, told the IBJ. “He’s very open and welcoming, he’s got a great sense of humor, and he’s authentic.
“Not only that, he’s very business-savvy when it comes to his brand. His website is excellent and he’s very good with social media.
“Even casual racing fans tend to support the sponsors and products of the drivers they follow. I have no doubt that its association with Hinchcliffe will raise sales for Flat 12, especially in this market and where he’s from in Canada.”
To make HHD more “authentic,” it’s even made with imported Canadian ingredients, particularly hops.
Not surprisingly, Hinchtown Hammer Down has a cartoon caricature of Hinchcliffe – who has the colorful nickname of the “Mayor of Hinchtown” – and an Indy car on the label.
“We came up with something that’s clean, light and easy drinking,” Hinchcliffe said. “That’s one of the reasons I think it’s popular. It has a broad appeal. You can drink a couple of them and not feel like you’ve eaten a three-turkey meal.”
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