Strong connections spark beer collaboration with UNH Athletics

Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Frank and Maryann Zagami

Frank Zagami ’00 and Maryann Zagami ’99 with cans of Go 'Cats!, which debuted just in time for Homecoming.

Frank Zagami ’00 and Maryann Zagami ’99 have conceived and brewed numerous distinctive beers in the eight years since the husband-and-wife team opened Deciduous Brewing in Newmarket. They take pride in refining the flavor profile of each until it meets their meticulous standards.

Their most recent release, though, is memorable for reasons well beyond what’s in the can.

Frank and Maryann went to high school together but were only friends until they arrived at UNH, where their relationship blossomed. So, too, did their connection to the university, both during their time on campus and in the years that have followed, so when the opportunity to create a co-branded beer with UNH Athletics popped up recently, the couple was eager to jump at it.

The result is hitting shelves – and UNH athletics venues – this week. It’s Go ‘Cats!, a 6.2% ABV New England-style IPA that is citrusy and “crushable,” as Frank put it – and is deeply meaningful to the Zagamis, who would never have imagined a beer they created being available at their alma mater when they first took the plunge and started a local business.

"People talk about checking things off of their bucket list and having amazing things happen to them that bring different parts of their lives together, and this collaboration is that for us. We are proud Wildcats, and we are super excited to have our business life merge with our personal life to create this beer."

“People talk about checking things off of their bucket list and having amazing things happen to them that bring different parts of their lives together, and this collaboration is that for us,” Maryann says. “It’s very emotional, it’s very personal for us – we are proud Wildcats, and we are super excited to have our business life merge with our personal life to create this beer.”

The beer will be available in cans at Deciduous and will be sold at several locations throughout Durham, including Wildcat Stadium and the Whittemore Center at Key Auto Group Complex. Go ‘Cats! made its official debut Tuesday, just in time for Homecoming weekend at UNH starting Oct. 13.

“We’re both graduates of UNH and we’ve always had a heart there,” Frank says. “Somehow this all came together.”

It couldn’t have fully come together without New Hampshire Distributors (NHD) – and one of Frank’s old roommates. Tyler Kelly, vice president of marketing at NHD, played a key role in bringing the project to fruition and getting the beer into the Durham market. He also happens to have pledged the same fraternity as Frank once upon a time and spent some time sharing an address with him along the way.

“I’ve known Frank and Maryann since the fall of 1995 when we all arrived on campus and it’s that 28-year friendship that allowed this next chapter in our business relationship to emerge,” Kelly says. “UNH has a special place in the roots of NHD, so to be able to strengthen that connection even further with Deciduous and UNH is very meaningful.”

Kelly noted that NHD has partnered with UNH and UNH Athletics for decades and credited Demi Kneeland, general manager of Wildcat Sports Properties (the multimedia and sponsorship rights holder for UNH Athletics) for her interest and consistent collaboration. But things really started to pick up steam on this most recent partnership shortly after Allison Rich joined UNH as athletic director in 2022.

“Everything really came together in the last year, between Allison’s arrival on campus as the new AD, Deciduous continuing its growth path and with Demi and I looking for the right beer partner,” Kelly says. “Once I knew Frank and Maryann were ready for a collaborative partnership on this level, it was a match made in Wildcat heaven.”

Cans of Go 'Cats! beer being boxed up
Go 'cats! will be on tap and on shelves at various durham locations.

The co-branded beer represents the latest milestone for Frank and Maryann, who made the bold decision to ditch their previous careers and open an upstart local brewery in 2015. Frank had been working in healthcare analytics and Maryann was preparing to return to a job as a teacher after taking time away to raise their children when they pulled the trigger on the big move.

The couple had dabbled in home brewing and “just had a passion for craft beer,” Frank says.

“We were fortunate that we received a lot of support right out of the gate,” Maryann says. “We started out with a very strong passion to brew a wide variety of beer the best way we could without compromise. We don’t put anything to market that we don’t stand behind 110%, and that has been our mission for the last eight years.”

The couple comes up with all the flavor concepts for their beer themselves, and Frank is responsible for all recipe development and finished flavor profiles. He also did all of the brewing until about three years ago, he says, when they were able to hire additional help.

In the relatively short time they’ve been open they’ve had to navigate the COVID pandemic and waves of changes in the craft beer industry, but the business – and their relationship – continue to grow stronger.

“We made the decision that we were just going to go for this and put our heart and soul into it like we do with everything we do,” Maryann says. “We’re fighters – we’ve weathered lots of storms within the industry and we still make it work. We work together 24 hours a day, essentially.”

“And we still like to hang out with each other outside of work, if you can imagine that,” Frank quips.

When they realized a co-branded beer with UNH was a possibility, they reached out to some contacts in the UNH athletics department and got the wheels turning. After arriving at the final recipe and navigating the label-making process, the finished product was officially ready to reveal.

Go ‘Cats! will be on sale during football games in Wildcat Stadium and during hockey games in the Whittemore Center at Key Auto Group Complex, and Frank and Maryann are still trying to prepare themselves for what it will feel like the first time they order one of their own beers on the campus where their journey together truly began.

“You really can’t explain it – there aren’t really words for it,” Frank says. “But it’s super exciting. We’re stoked that it all worked out, and it’s going to be a ride!”

Go ’Cats! will be available on draft in the following Durham locations: Ciao Trattoria and Wine Bar, Clark’s American Bistro, Hop + Grind, Libby’s Bar and Grill, Three Chimneys Inn, Tideline Public House and Wildcat Pizza. Four-packs of Go ’Cats! will be available for purchase at Deciduous Brewing Company in addition to the following Durham locations: Campus Convenience, Hannaford, Main Street Convenience, University Market and University Market II.

Scott Ripley | UNH Marketing | | 603-862-1855