Distribution relationships in the craft beer industry can turn contentious in certain markets, but the most successful breweries out there have a stable of great distributor relationships to turn to to help them grow and expand. At the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) 79th Annual Convention in Chicago this week, the NBWA organization recognized one such relationship, with Allagash Brewing Co. of Portland, Maine, taking home the second annual NBWA Brewer Partner of the Year Award.
“Allagash, KettleHouse and Port City are three of the more than 4,000 breweries that are generating such excitement for beer around this country and providing the American consumer with unprecedented choice and quality,” said NBWA President and CEO Craig Purser. “The U.S. is enjoying a Golden Age for beer thanks to a robust and competitive system of independent distribution, which provides access to market for brewers of all sizes, creates a competitive playing field for brewers of all sizes and generates excitement for consumers.”
Allagash Brewing Co. has been brewing Belgian-inspired beers since 1995 and produced 93,000 barrels of beer in 2015. For new and existing products, they provide their distributors with posters, videos, artwork and sales sheets about the brand. Allagash also has created a custom profit calculator app that allows distributors to calculate how much money each product can make at retail compared to competing brands. This information can then be shared with retail buyers.
Allagash partners with their distributors to host “Saison Day” each March where they focus on educating consumers about the Saison style of beer. Allagash also recognizes each distributor partner who sells more than 100,000 case equivalents per year by having management fly in to the market and hand deliver a custom-made sign recognizing the accomplishment.
Joey Waraskevich of Pine State Beverage said, “To many around the country, it is no mystery that Allagash makes great beer and is on the forefront of innovation. What may not be so obvious to some is the support and quality of people they provide to their wholesaler partners.”
“Founder Rob Tod has created a culture of not only hardworking employees but, as important, quality people of great character and flawless follow through,” Waraskevich continued. “If visiting the brewery as a wholesaler, it is common for a brewer or member of the operations team to personally thank you for selling their beer. Furthermore, it will take you five minutes of being in the brewery to discover that everyone is genuinely proud of where they work.”
“The sales team works hand in hand with our team in the marketplace, giving us excellent support at the account level, and every member has integrity and knowledge of the beer industry,” Waraskevich added.
KettleHouse Brewing Co. of Missoula, Mon., was recognized with the Brewer Partner Sales Execution Award, and Port City Brewing Co. in Alexandria, Va., was presented the Brewer Partner Marketing Innovation Award.
The awards recognize the brewers who do the best job in the marketplace producing great beer, building strong partnerships, providing valuable education and offering support to their distributor customers in order to bring their beers to market.
KettleHouse Brewing, the recipient of the Brewer Partner Sales Execution Award, was founded in 1995 by Tim O’Leary and Suzy Rizza and produced 15,000 barrels of beer in 2015. Tim O’Leary has been a pioneer of the Montana craft movement. According to Dave Irvin of Eagle Beverage, “He started small and knows what it takes to make all the parts work in the beer business.”
In recalling a conversation with a prospective distributor, O’Leary explained, “Our job is to make theirs easier because we know how hard the logistics are for getting our product to market. We know that in this point-and-click world we now live in, relationships still sell beer. Our distributors have spent decades building relationships, and we do not want to screw that up.”
Port City Brewing Co., the recipient of the Brewer Partner Marketing Innovation Award, was founded in 2011 by Bill Butcher and produced 15,000 barrels of beer in 2015.
“The Port City team is by far some of the most passionate, enthusiastic supplier partners in the business and then some,” said Ed Cook of Hop and Wine Beverage L.L.C.
“Hop and Wine understands distribution, and Port City understands brewing,” Cook continued. “We value and respect each other’s expertise … Port City and Hop and Wine facilitate sales and execute together as true partners should, understanding our mutual sales forces are an extension of each other.”