Leveling Up Your Distribution

New Beer Distribution 2018

The game has changed. To think that it’s enough for a brewery to bring a product to market via the Three-Tier Distribution System or open a brewpub and expect the results others have seen is naïve. It’s just not as automatic as it once was. Getting bottles on the shelf or having 20 taps might not always be enough.

Today’s beer consumer is promiscuous: they want to try everything under the sun, they research their options online, they utilize social media to inform their choices, they homebrew, they want the newest trends, they want it fresh.

How do you compete with such high demands and such uncertainty in the market? Yes, there is far more certainty in the taproom – less overhead, no middlemen, control of the end product, etc. But what about expanding your footprint?

Being able to reach your customer directly can be bolstered beyond just the taproom or being relegated to larger distribution. Your options are no longer limited to liquor stores, distributors, bottle shops, or convenience and grocery stores. Don’t hate the game, change it.

Online Distribution

The idea of ordering beer online has evolved beyond the “Beer of the Month” concept. Today you can have growlers of San Diego or San Francisco brewed beer shipped to your house through Hopsy, get daily emails to build a monthly shipment of only the beers you want via Tavour, have six-packs or even cases delivered by Amazon, not to mention the other countless online retailers offering specialty bottles from as far away as Belgium, or as close as your own backyard. Better yet, you can set up your own web store online, enabling you to sell directly to customers through e-commerce software such as Shopify.

You also may have noticed that even the sharing economy has gotten in on the act, with delivery apps built to bring alcohol from local retailers to your door. Apps like Drizly, Saucey, Swill and even some locations in UberEATS are built to connect your potential customers to locations where you may have never considered making beer available.

Consider All the Options

While all the options above accomplish getting your name and brand out further than before, working in tandem with a specialty beer distributor for designated regions or metropolitan areas is still a strong bet. And while it’s clearer than ever before that your best resource will continue to be the taproom/brewpub, casting a wider net by using an all-of-the-above approach will better position you to build brand identity and loyalty in the long term.

It’s clearer than ever that today’s industry is focused on offering the freshest product available. With nearly 6,000 breweries in the US now selling beer, local servings have become the standard rather than indulging in the antiquated Three-Tier system. The key here is to find methods that will most effectively get your product into the hands of the customer you’re brewing for.

And while technology can provide a leg-up within the market, it’s clear that no one wants a first impression to be judged by an old batch that took two-plus months to get to the customer. Explore your options, figure out what makes fiscal sense for your business and find out how fresh your beer will be when it gets to its intended destination.

Of course you can’t win the game if you don’t play, but don’t let the game dictate how you’re going to win.