Founder: Dave Schwanke
Year founded: 2016
Product description: Coffee soda pop and a roastery that's the coffee-nerd equivalent of a band that drops a viral hit to launch their craft-oriented passion project.
Yearly sales: About $60,000 in 2018
Is it profitable?: No.
Available at: After Dark Cookies, Bad Habit Room, Barbur World Foods, Battle Ground Produce, BeerMongers, Bottles, Cherry Sprout Produce, Green Zebra Grocery and others
Price: $18 per six-pack.
When Dave Schwanke first started roasting his own coffee beans, he had no intention of quitting his day job.
"When I would go to buy a bag of beans," he says, "I would create delicious coffee. And then I would brew it the same with my home-roasted coffee, and I would create a lovely cup of mediocre coffee."
Still, Schwanke had been looking for a way out of his 25-year career in advertising, and would often give samples of his home roast to professional roasters he knew. Eventually, he got pretty good. So in 2015, he took some money out of savings, sold his motorcycle and launched Clutch Coffee.
But another of Schwanke's culinary hobbies turned out to be the product that distinguishes Clutch from the mass of Portland coffee roasters—coffee soda, a caramely drink that's sweetened with agave, lightly fizzy and highly caffeinated. At his wife's suggestion, Schwanke started to sell his homebrewed soda on tap at farmers markets. One day, he sold some soda to an investor, who offered on the spot to fund bottling and distribution.
According to Schwanke, the coffee soda has led to some sit-downs with bigger grocery stores, though he hasn't nabbed a large-scale distribution deal yet. "The soda has helped open some doors for the whole-bean coffee, which is the goal," he says.
Schwanke now roasts his coffee beans at Buckman Coffee instead of in his kitchen, and has a production capacity of 500 cases of coffee soda per week. And last year, Schwanke quit his marketing job to start working for Clutch full time.
"I was able to go from working 80 hours a week working both jobs to 70 hours a week working just Clutch," he says. "It was like a vacation every day."
Guilty pleasure snack: "Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino on a hot day," says Schwanke. "Coffee, chocolate bits, icy cold whipped cream—how is this not perfect on a hot day? Also, being in the 'fourth wave' coffee business, I am expected to hate Starbucks."
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