As it positions for continued growth, Hop Valley Brewing Company today named Adrian Benkonvich as its new president, effective Sept. 9. He’ll replace Hop Valley co-founder Chuck Hare, who will transition to CEO of the Eugene, Ore.-based craft brewery.
Benkonvich, who over the last two years has served as Tenth and Blake craft and import development director for the Pacific region, “is ideally suited to keep Hop Valley moving in the right direction given that he’s played a pivotal role in the brewery’s expansion,” said Pete Marino, Tenth and Blake president, in a note sent to distributors today.
The Bay area native, who has held several sales and marketing roles in his 16-year career with MillerCoors, plans to relocate to Eugene. He’ll take over the day-to-day operations of Hop Valley, while Hare will hit the road and meet with retailers and distributors in a quest to expand the brand beyond its current footprint.
“For Chuck and his team to build this brewery into what it is today in the market it’s in — and with the amount of competition they’re up against — is nothing short of amazing,” Benkonvich says. “For the Hop Valley team to select me to help them continue this wild ride is an absolute honor. I can’t wait to dive in.”
Along with co-founders Jonas Kunygys and Trevor Howard and Vice President of Sales and Marketing Walter Macbeth, Hare helped grow 10-year-old Hop Valley from a 1,000-barrel start-up into one of the fastest-growing craft brewers in the Pacific Northwest over the past decade.
Since inking a deal with MillerCoors in 2016, Hop Valley has grown 114% with a deliberate approach guided by solidifying its base in the Pacific Northwest before beginning a steady march outward into new markets.
The brand continues to outperform the overall craft market. It is up double digits this year, Hare says, bucking trends in the Pacific Northwest. “And that’s despite the fact we haven’t expanded into a new market for two years,” Hare says.
“Our goal is to take Hop Valley even bigger in 2020, and we’re getting the team in place for expansion,” Hare says. “With his strong background in sales and marketing and deep experience at MillerCoors, Adrian is the perfect person for this job. He knows and loves our brand and our people, and he understands beer.”
Other Hop Valley leaders will remain in place, including Macbeth, Kunygys, Howard (who serves as brewmaster) and Controller Steven Pokorski.
For Hare, stepping away from day-to-day operations of the brewery will be bittersweet. “I love the operations side because I love our people and spending time with them. It’s the best crew I’ve ever had, and I love these guys like family,” he says.
But his new role represents an opportunity “to get back to my roots, and get out there with our distributors and sell beer. There’s a lot of heavy lifting that needs to happen as we grow, and I need to be out there,” he says. “We have the best sales guy on the planet in Walter Macbeth. We built this brand by getting out in the trade, and I am stoked to be able to get back out in the market with the Neon Prince again and sell more beer. We’re all excited to take this thing to the next level.”
Benkonvich, meanwhile, says his first goal is to ensure Hop Valley employees and fans know he wants “to come in and learn as much as I can, so I can help the rest of world discover this wonderful brewery.
“As Walter (Macbeth) would say, ‘Hop Valley has been crushing in the craft category long before I was in the picture’”, Benkonvich says. “The beer is amazing, the people are amazing, and this brewery is amazing. I just want to help them turn up the volume even more.”