What started out as an initiative to get beer into Aggie Stadium turned into Gunrock Lager, a branded beer that UC Davis will start out selling locally with the hopes of expanding nationally.
With 5,000 breweries in the United States and an industry that is expected to swell to over $23.5 billion, craft beer has become a big business, and one that universities like UC Davis are now capitalizing on.
The collegiate-branded craft beer idea is not a novel idea, but is one that has caught on in recent years as more schools have loosened their restrictions on beer sales inside stadiums and arenas.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette was one of the first movers into the space, when in 2015 the school launched Ragin’ Cajuns Genuine Louisiana Ale. The university now has two branded beers with Ragin’ Cajuns Lager, a beer that was launched in 2016 after Bayou Teche Brewing had seen success with the Ale.
Not only have the beers been a hit with fans, the extra revenue from the licensed beer has helped the athletic program at ULL make improvements to the Cajundome.
UC Davis is hoping for the same kind of response.
“When I arrived here in 2016, one of the first goals was working to get beer sold in the Stadium,” said Rocko DeLuca, deputy director of athletics for UC Davis. “As we were going through the process with Sudwerk, we were aggressive in finding a way to not only have a good beer, but a beer that would create brand awareness and other positive effects for the university.”
Enter Gunrock American Lager, a collaboration between UC Davis and Sudwerk Brewing Co., the latter being an official partner of the renowned UC Davis Brewing Program.
Created by UC Davis alumnus Doug Muhleman, retired Anheuser-Busch vice president of brewing operations and technology, the lager is meant to be the perfect complement to sporting events.
Further tying both the academic and athletic portion together, Jack DeWit, a UC Davis alumnus and former football player is donating all of the rice used to make the beer.
A far cry from not being able to even tailgate at games, DeLuca and his staff first brought beer to Aggie Stadium to changes things up.
“We wanted to show that we could do things differently and engage fans in a way and in a place where not too long ago didn’t even allow tailgating. So, to get beer sold in the stadium was a pretty big deal.”
Beyond receiving a positive response from fans, the program was able to engage more of their local sponsors.
“It was a good opportunity for us to garner more support from sponsors,” said DeLuca. “We have seen some great feedback from local business, with many of them even vending at our game.”
From no beer to beer served at Aggie Stadium, to the co-branded Gunrock American Lager named after the university’s mascot, UC Davis will be raising a cold one all year long.