Rock Bottom and Gordon Biersch to merge


The two biggest brewpub restaurant chains in America are merging.

The Beatles on iTunes? No, this is bigger news in beer circles. Two of America's biggest operators and franchisers of brewery-restaurants will be merged.

Rock Bottom Restaurants, Inc. and Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group were acquired Monday, Nov. 15 by Centerbridge Capital Partners, L.P. The combined operation, overseeing nearly 200 brewpubs and restaurants, will be named CraftWorks Restaurants and Breweries, Inc.

CraftWorks is led by Frank Day and Allen Corey. Frank Day, founder of Rock Bottom, serves as Chairman of the Board and brings over 45 years of restaurant experience to the newly formed company. Day created the Old Chicago pizzeria and beer bar concept in 1976, and started Rock Bottom Brewery in 1990. Allen Corey, an original investor and 13 year CEO of Gordon Biersch, is the President and CEO of CraftWorks and brings over 18 years of restaurant experience to the position.

The press release announcing the merger noted that the two chains, along with their other restaurants concepts, would continue operating under their current names, and that no closures are planned.

Rock Bottom has four Chicago area locations among its 35 sites across the U.S. It is noted for the autonomy accorded to its individual brewmasters, many of whom have competed and won medals at the Great American Beer Festival, the World Beer Cup and other competitions. The former head brewer at "RB Chicago," Pete Crowley (who corrects me whenever I refer to Rock Bottom as a "chain"), is a founding partner of the upcoming Haymarket Pub & Brewery slated to open next month in the West Loop. 

Gordon Biersch focuses on lagers brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot of 1516. Form their first location in Palo Alto, CA (1999), Gordon Biersch now had 29 locations in 18 states, including one in Bolingbrook. They have also claimed medals at the GABF and WBC. Gordon Biersch also bottles its beers for stores, and contract brews brands like gluten free Bard's Tale Dragon's Gold Sorghum beer, and house brands for Trader Joe's and Costco stores.

The Old Chicago restaurants boast 110 beers at each of its more than 100 locations, including Elk Grove Village and Rockford. Other specially concepts operated by CraftWorks include Big River Grille, Bluewater Grille (both in Chattanooga, TN), A1A Ale Works (St. Augustine, FL), Ragtime Tavern, Seafood & Grille and Seven Bridges Grille & Brewery(Jacksonville, FL), Walnut Brewery (Boulder, CO), Sing Sing (Denver & Pittsburgh) and  ChopHouse & Brewery (4 cities).

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