Mill Creek Brewing faces bankruptcy, shuts doors

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Mill Creek Brewing Co. quietly closed their doors over the weekend, marking a nearly four-year run in the local craft brewing industry. 

Founder and CEO Chris Going announced the decision to staff on Friday, stating the company could no longer meet many of its financial obligations and was without further financial backing to dig itself out of the hole. The company intends to file for bankruptcy protection this week. 

“Our board of directors and I worked tirelessly over the past several months to find a solution to keep things moving forward,” Going said. “Unfortunately, many options that could have saved things didn’t pan out. As time has ticked down, it hasn’t left many options available, and we’re forced to make this difficult decision to shut things down.”

During the last four years, the brewery saw tremendous growth and opportunity due to a strong, recognizable brand, built with beers like Lil Darlin, their beloved citrus infused wheat beer. They quickly expanded beyond Nashville, taking their beer statewide in 2016 and across the Tennessee borders in 2017 and 2018 with expansions to Alabama, Kentucky and Indiana. 

At the end of 2018, the decision was made to pull distribution back to just Tennessee as the company ramped up 2019. 

“As we started shipping beer out of state, the Nashville demand really shot up,” Going said. “The decision to pull back came from both a financial need and also a logistical one. Why ship beer out of Nashville when someone locally wants to buy it? We also spent a lot of dollars investing in the expansions and support of those markets, and sadly some of those moves did tremendous damage to our company.” 

Another move Mill Creek made at the end of 2018 was the expansion of their taproom business, first with a move to the 12 South neighborhood. The taproom opened amid massive buzz, winning the Nashville Scene Burger Week Best Burger award in its first month of operations. 

Mill Creek began 2019 with a successful capital raise aimed at cleaning up some of their past moves in addition to allowing the company to retrench and to get hyper focused on the Nashville market. 

They continued a taproom expansion in September 2019 with a move to Franklin, taking over the brewery and taproom space that formerly housed Mantra Brewing. 

Overall, the company cites a variety of issues that are to blame for the position it is in, including changing market trends, fierce competition, over-leveraged expansions and regulatory restrictions.

Ultimately, the future is uncertain at this time for Mill Creek. The company will allow the bankruptcy process to progress and adhere to all the requirements which could unfortunately mean its brands and beer will cease to exist. The company does point out, though, that there’s a soft glimmer of hope of revival in the event certain assets are purchased in the liquidation. 

“I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but I believe with every ending, there’s a beginning somewhere, and I truly feel there could be a new beginning hiding underneath the sad story being reported today,” Going said. “There’s been some contact from outside parties the past few days, and I anticipate they’ll be a lot more ahead. We built a great brand that’s got a lot of value still. This move, while unfortunate, is a great opportunity for someone new to capitalize on all that work and find value. The team behind Mill Creek poured their hearts into building it into what it is, and we’re all crushed to see it go down. I think I speak for everyone involved, though, we would love to have had a chance to keep building. Who knows, maybe when one door closes, another will open.”

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