Sometimes big breaks come when you least expect them. In the early spring of 2012, Tommy Hester ’11 and Wilson Barr ’11 were in the early stages of launching a beer company. Their product, called Snake Bite, was based off of a pub-mixed combination of beer and hard cider, which they discovered two years earlier while studying abroad in England.
For months, they had dedicated themselves to researching state and federal alcohol regulations, evaluating potential breweries, perfecting their recipe, and assembling a fundraising pitch for initial investors. During a break from filling out one of the seemingly endless forms required to acquire a bottling license, Tommy cold-called Matagrano, the largest and most-highly respected distributor in the Bay Area. “At that point, we had beer and a cider that you could mix, but it wasn’t a final production sample,” Tommy recalls.
To their surprise, one of the head’s of the distribution company agreed to take a meeting. The following week, Tommy and Wilson made the short drive from San Francisco’s Sunset district down California’s Route 101 to an industrial park in South San Francisco in Tommy’s 2005 Mazda CRV. With no final product ready for sampling, Tommy set about mixing beer and cider in the backseat while Wilson went over the talking points of their pitch.