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Misconceptions about beer distribution

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Misrahi, Jan 27, 2013.

  1. They're ignorant if they keep posting about the production to end user route of meat with incorrect information.
    That's what the OP is talking about, in case you missed it.

  2. Technically they're not bypassing distributors. If they're self-distributing, they have to set up a distribution arm, jumping through all the legal hoops required to do so. The distribution company they set up may very well wind up distributing other beers, like Stone's does.
  3. You're confusing capitalism with free market. Pretty much all commerce is, at best, an imperfectly free market. Some industries in the U.S. are more imperfect than others.
  4. a little side bar that i didn't know til i started working at a brewery. we don't know where our beer goes once distribution comes and picks up. if we ship 50 cases we can't say alright guys 10 are going here, 5 are going here, 2 are going here, etc. it just goes out and then distributors take care of the rest. we can specify certain things, like these 2 kegs go to this restaurant and what not, but 99% of the beer we send out we have no idea where it goes exactly (who gets what). basically don't blame breweries cause this place or that place didn't get enough of your beer cause chances are it's out of our hands
  5. In Michigan, breweries can make suggestions to distributors, but the distributor usually has final say where the beer goes.

    I don't mind the 3-tier system, but it needs revisions. Below are a few that come to mind:
    --Self-distribution is not legal for breweries in Michigan, but legal for wineries. If a brewery produces less than X amount of barrels, they should be allowed to self distribute, especially if wineries can.
    --In Michigan, if a brewery isn't happy with it's distributor, they are out of luck. There is no easy way out. The outdated law protects dozens of distributors, while leaving thousands of stores and breweries with no protection.
    --In Michigan, distributors have territorial rights (monopoly) for each county; IE. A store can only buy Beer X from Distributor Y in County Z. Where is the capitalism in that? If Distributor Y doesn't carry a certain beer, the store should be allowed to buy it from another distributor. Consumers have hundreds of stores to choose from, but retailers have 1 distributor to choose from for each brewery.
    beergurujr likes this.
  6. Not necessarily. It depends on state laws. Some states allow self-distribution without setting up a separate distribution company. They can just put the kegs/bottles in the van and drop them off at the bar or retailer.
    chefkevlar likes this.
  7. ThirstyFace

    ThirstyFace Initiate (0) New York Jan 11, 2013

    No, they are ignorant if the ignored something that was noticeable. Thanks for playing. Eat a horse.
  8. madnismo

    madnismo Savant (325) Florida Jan 30, 2011

    I work for a small Liquor store that sells craft beer. I have 4 beer distributors and only one gives me a hard time, and it would be the one with the biggest portfolio. Lets call it Company X. I understand if you don't carry the breweries core brands its hard to get the limited releases. Yes its all based on how much you sale, ive had company x managers laugh at me when I asked if I could get certain ales, because ive only sold x amount of cases a year..Compared to the Big 3 (total wine, Whole food, ABC) yes i'm no where near what they sell, so they get the limited ales. Best thing to do is be the squeaky wheel! Contact breweries, state reps and even email the distributors "craft reps" all the time. Its not guaranteed you will always get what you want but most of the time you will, but the big 3 will always win. The only thing small stores have are quick one off and special orders. Chain stores have a lot of paper work to do and it takes some time for requests to go through. So they miss more than you think, especially with imports. The only one up the big 3 have are that the breweries. The popular breweries like to allocate their limited beers to top sellers. Don't get me wrong the distributors do the same thing, but the breweries have the power over the distributors. Today I learnt that I wont be getting any of a certain beer from a local brewery because there isn't enough to go around..So its on premise only, oh wait the big 3 will be getting some...Oh the power of allocation. I have more to say, ive been dealing with this for years, but im drunk..
  9. I work at both a beer distributor and a homebrew shop that services some of the local pro craft brewers, so I think I have a unique perspective into the interesting relationships between the components of the 'system'.

    One of the biggest misconceptions I see is when people assume that craft brewers want to self-distribute and are being forced into working with a distributor. Breweries (craft and otherwise) work with distributors for the same reason most don't have a legal department...because they want to brew, not mess around with politics and numbers. I know of several breweries that successfully self-distribute and they receive the same complaints distributors do - "why can't I get X limited release?" "why isn't X in stock?" "why don't I get 1 case deliveries every day of the week?"

    Most complaints are really aimed at the way the industry (and the nature of profit) is, not at the distributors. Remember that the craft world is relatively infant and most distributors and retailers are hustling to rewrite decades-old practices to accommodate it. Also, profit is always the goal, from the biggest domestic brand to the smallest nanobrewery; no one wants their kids to go to bed hungry.

    This doesn't mean there aren't great people who try to balance profit with delivering everything their customers want, however...
  10. Perhaps you could start some sort of list & have people sign it showing who wants said beers. If you get enough signatures, they may be attentive to your needs. Your customers will be happy to sign if it means a poss of you getting those beers in the future. And most craft beer drinkers love that grassroots type approach to making something work in their favor. And trust me, there IS that possibility. Or call the main office & deal with someone higher up. Don't give up! There is a guy here in KC that became a powehouse name because he markets himself similarly. He has a small store but gets as much as anyone else out here. Start a Twitter & FB & list your newest releases there too. With popularity will come buying power. And good luck!!
  11. DCgolfpro

    DCgolfpro Savant (440) Maryland Oct 26, 2011

    I'm sure we all spend a reasonable amount of time on the phone looking for brew. The past couple weeks for me it's been BA Bigfoot and Sucaba. I'm lucky enough to have a profession that allows me to have pretty flexible schedule. Knowing how quickly desirable beers disappear, I try to make myself available on delivery day. This has backfired (I'm sure it has for you too) more times than I can count.

    I didn't come here to complain. What I'm looking for is some education about beer distribution. In a perfect world, what steps could be put in place that would allow Store owners/buyers to accurately communicate arrival dates to their customers? How exactly does the beer ordering process work? I'm always told, "We don't know how much we're going to get OR when it's coming until it gets here. Keep calling." I'm sure this is MORE frustrating for those in the business than it is for those that aren't, since they have to field all those phone calls. Is this a problem that has a potential solution? Is this even a problem?

    Thank you all for your input.
    Prost
  12. I think it's a misconception that the squeaky wheel always gets the oil. I've worked customer service jobs (not in the beer industry), and people who get a rep as more trouble than they're worth don't get treated well.
    Then again, if a beer distributor is looking for 100% placement on some item they're pushing that week, I guess that would give you some leverage.
  13. Where in CT? Im From Ct, and travel up there every other week from baltimore
  14. I know the distributor of Founders for the 13 counties in PA around me only get 10 cases to distribute and they're told who they're to go to. And the account won't sell them to customers, not even to people who work for that distributor and go there to buy it, knowing they have it. No wait list there or anything. The problem isn't always the first or second tier of the system.
  15. madnismo

    madnismo Savant (325) Florida Jan 30, 2011

    True, but everyone has a boss.
  16. russmann

    russmann Aficionado (135) Idaho Oct 3, 2007

    You're a good person. We've had software custom written to update customers on ETA and arrival dates that we know about, by email. We ask our distributors to tell us those dates and they give us answers like "It depends on trucking" or "February 12th. I mean 19th. I mean March. 31st. The Fall." Yes, it is more frustrating for those in the business. I think the best thing to do is pick a good craft store and support it with all your beer buying power, and I don't mean the Big Three mentioned above. The more you buy, the more your favorite local store can buy, and if they're "with it" you have a better chance. We rely on our locals that are on BA and RB all the time, and that one label approval site, asking us, "Hey can you get this?" then we ask our distributors, who usually say "What the heck is that? How do you know about it?" and a few weeks later we have the product. Have patience. When a brewery 3 states away says something will be released on X day, give it time, it's probably released 3 states away that day, and has some travel time to get here.
  17. They say they will send to the stores that got left out the last time, but when it gets shipped out, truck mysteriously crashes, and leaves all but six random cases of Cantillon, along with a few other goodies left for the distributor. They hand them out to their "pet" accounts, and the rest of the people that were supposed to get these beers are left in the dust.
  18. pixieskid

    pixieskid Advocate (660) Germany Jun 4, 2009

    It's always been pretty funny to me that DC is legally allowed to bootleg...
    Mothergoose03 likes this.
  19. Hmm. . well, that's one way to look at it ;) but isn't more that they have a 2.5 Tier System, with retailers allowed to act as wholesalers as long as they (wait for it....) pay the excise tax! Granted, they are doing it without the agreement of the brewery in some cases, but that apparently isn't unusual - that's how some Coors came east in their "bootleg" era, legal in-state distributors bought it out of state, paid the state ET, registered the beer, etc., and sold it legally to retailers - all against the wishes of the brewery.
    Mothergoose03 likes this.
  20. And if your boss doesn't understand that there are squeaky wheels that do more squeaking than rolling and need to be ignored, then your boss is clueless and needs to be ignored.
  21. Sounds like you've got the inside scoop. Outside of not knowing about the 3 tier system (see the title of this thread).
  22. smakawhat

    smakawhat Poobah (1,060) Maryland Mar 18, 2008

    The area does get a good bit of variety, but everything and the obscure stuff cost will cost you an arm and a leg to drink it.

    Not distributed in state, bought at retail, pay for storage, pay the tax to DC, add a little profit for the business, plus cost of living ala "everything in DC is more expensive compared to where you live" means:

    Bottle of Consecration, Sanctification, Supplication $30 dollars not including tax
    Bottle of Pliny Elder $15 dollars not including tax
    1 Can of Surly Abbrasive or Heady Topper $8-9 dollars not including tax.
    Bottle of Calumet Queen from THree Floyds $30

    those are just a few examples. It's not exactly a free ride, and you're not going to find these beers even in DC on a regular basis, and certianly not in large quantities.
  23. erichall

    erichall Aficionado (175) Kentucky Nov 13, 2008

    I bet DC's setup has a lot to do with wine more than beer. A dignitary from ABC country is flying in and only drinks X wine from this producer and plans to dine at a certain restaurant during trip. Restaurant needs wine but it is not normally distributed in DC, they find a source for it. Pay taxes. Serve it to dignitary at inflated price that is paid for by someone's tax dollars. Dignitary is kept in high spirits and agrees on deal to benefit a member of our government in DC and all is well!
  24. ESeab

    ESeab Advocate (505) New Jersey Jan 3, 2013

    Philly had it two or three weeks before Jersey. I'm 40 miles away and almost drove to get cases but ended up just waiting. I even went to Philly for a night before Jersey got nectar and saw it at the bars, but I opted for all the Bells I could get because I can't get it at home.

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