Creature Comforts CEO Chris Herron and co-founders David Stein and Adam Beauchamp couldn’t have asked for a better way to mark the fifth anniversary of the acclaimed Athens-based craft beer company on April 26. To celebrate their Ant-Man-sized brand’s starring role in the mega Marvel superhero hit “Avengers: Endgame,” the company rented out a pair of theaters in Athens for all one hundred full and part-time Creature Comforts staffers to sit back and watch Chris Hemsworth as Thor knock back a few cans of Tropicalia on the big screen.
“Everyone in the theater started cheering,” says Herron, recalling the moment to Eldredge ATL Tuesday while driving back from Savanah after participating in an event to introduce the Creature Comforts brand to coastal Georgia. “It was completely surreal to see our products on screen in the biggest movie of the year. It wasn’t that long ago when we were only making beer once a week, I was watering the plants here to stay busy while loading up my backpack [with samples] trying to convince people to carry our beer. For us, this represents the culmination of the crazy journey we’ve been on over the last five years.”
Unbeknownst to the folks at Creature Comforts, their craft beers, including cans of Tropicalia and Athena became such a hit on set at Pinewood Studios in Fayetteville, Georgia during the lengthy 2017 and 2018 back-to-back shoots of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” production assistants would drive up to Atlanta to intercept the Creature Comforts truck when it would arrive at metro-Atlanta liquor stores in the morning, during the height of Atlanta’s tragic Tropicalia shortage. Cans of the tasty American IPA were liberated from store shelves and then driven to set.
Eventually, someone from the Marvel Studios production team sent an email to the company’s catch-all email address, firstname.lastname@example.org listed on the company’s website and made a random request for a meeting in an effort to persuade Creature Comforts to let filmmakers use the products in the upcoming blockbuster. Let’s just say Marvel didn’t exactly have to send the Hulk over to Athens to smash up the Creature Comforts offices. Staffers were already huge fans of the Georgia-shot franchise.
“We couldn’t believe it,” says Herron. “Our company story resonated with them. It was very organic and authentic. It wasn’t a paid placement or anything we actively pursued. They just asked for us to send some product, a T-shirt and we signed an agreement saying we wouldn’t talk about the film in advance.”
Creature Comforts staffers were encouraged that their beer might make the final cut, first, when co-director Joe Russo showed up to Disney’s D23 Expo fan fest event in 2017 sporting a Tropicalia shirt and then when eagle-eyed Creature Comforts drinkers spotted an Athena can in the film’s trailer released earlier this year.
For a small indie brand like Creature Comforts, the product placement in what could be the biggest box office hit of 2019 might well be a marketing game-changer for the company (In comparison, Burger King shelled out big bucks in exchange for its pivotal product placement in 2008’s “Iron Man,” the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe). Says Herron: “No matter what happens from this point on with the brewery and the brand, Creature Comforts is now memorialized forever. We’ll always be able to pull up ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and say ‘Remember that time when…’”
On Friday, Creature Comforts rented out an “Endgame” screening at Beechwood Cinemas in Athens and on Monday night they convinced Cine’, the indie art house movie theater across the street from the Creature Comforts downtown taproom on West Hancock Avenue to screen the superhero blockbuster for the company’s Tasting Room staffers who work on Fridays.
Staffers wore Tropicalia T-shirts to the screenings and Herron even borrowed his four-year-old son Gavin’s toy Thor hammer for the occasion. The company’s T-shirt is first seen peeking out from under an outer garment Hemsworth- as-Thor is wearing early in the film (Says Herron: “They asked for a Double XL T-shirt and for months we were trying to figure out which character might wear it,” says Herron. “It’s not like the Hulk walks around wearing a lot of shirts!”).
While a can of Creature Comforts Athena is sitting on a table at Avengers HQ when Thor first meets Captain Marvel (what else would the God of Thunder drink?), Creature Comfort staffers were initially disappointed with a subsequent scene featuring Thor and some decidedly non-CC brews.
But according to Herron, everyone was on the edge of their seats when Rocket the rascally “Guardians of the Galaxy” rabbit, er, raccoon then attempts to lure Thor back into action, telling him they’ve stocked the ship with beer and Thor replies, “What kind?”
“Everyone in the theater was like, ‘Pleeease let that be the lead in to our scene!’” Herron says laughing. “And when Chris Hemsworth walks into that next shot and the music is going and he’s holding that can of Tropicalia, there was just this insane eruption of cheers in the theater.”
Over the weekend, Creature Comfort staffers received social media kudos from other Georgia craft beer makers, who reported similar eruptions in theaters across the state as craft beer lovers recognized the brand. Says Herron: “We consider this not only a big win for Creature Comforts but for every craft beer brewer in this state.”
Still, as craft beer lovers pile into theaters to watch “Avengers: Endgame” across the globe, unless you live in Georgia, the chances of you enjoying Thor’s new favorite IPA remain as slim as possessing all the Infinity Stones. “This isn’t something we can really monetize,” says Herron. “We don’t ship across state lines. Hopefully, ‘Avengers’ craft beer lovers will order a Creature Comforts T-shirt online and then hop on a plane, visit us in Athens, see our city, tour the brewery and come hang out with us in the tasting room.”
Richard L. Eldredge is the founder and editor in chief of Eldredge ATL. As a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Atlanta magazine, he has covered Atlanta since 1990.