Urban Artifact is launching a new product, but in a very different manner, as part of a new program to better support its retail partners.
Salted Rye Gose, which is part of its awesome Epicurean line, will be released without ever being sold at the taproom. Instead, all cases and kegs will be shipped to distribution for Urban Artifact’s retail partners as a kick-off to the Retailer Appreciation Program.
Co-owner and founder Scotty Hunter explained the program’s reason for being in an open letter.
We want our customers to explore their neighborhoods and support their hyper-local retailers. We care about our relationships with our retail partners both large and small, and we hope with this public gesture that we can continue to grow and nurture our retail partnerships.
The letter starts by addressing the elephant in the room these days that craft beer growth is heavily concentrated in taprooms instead of retail accounts. As we noted in a feature this week, a growing number of craft breweries are actively choosing to open new facilities instead of finding new shelves. It’s a smart way to go, but the retailer-only beer idea Hunter proposes here is also interesting, a small compromise of sorts, to give some of that “taproom exclusivity” power to its partners.
Below is the meat of Hunter’s letter. We’re interested to hear what you think in the comments. Cool idea?
Over the past four years our goals have always been to do what is best for our brewery and what is best for you, our retail partners. But, in reality, that shared goal is not always apparent; whether you look at us or any of the over 300 craft brewers that are now operating in Ohio. Within the past year, we’ve noticed a changing climate in the brewery-retailer relations world. There are more taprooms than ever, and whether some people, associations, or business want to admit it or not, there is a growing tension between brewery taprooms & retail partners.
The brewery taproom was meant to help spur the growth of craft beer by giving breweries a means to market their beer directly to consumers. The taproom has allowed breweries a way to build a brand name and sell additional beer at retail pricing, which has helped buffer the razor thin margins inherent in running a small craft brewery. Taprooms were never intended to take business away from retailers, but instead grow the craft beer market at large; a rising tide raises all ships.
However, this divide, suppred on by the rapid expanse of brewery taprooms, continues to grow as more and more breweries are relying heavily on taprooms to sell the majority of their beer. There are also handfuls of breweries, in Ohio and around the country, opening multiple taprooms across their distribution footprint. This is further cutting into sales of their retailer partners which they are calling on week after week for sales. Of course, none of this is illegal, but to us at Urban Artifact, it is not within the spirit of the law and the three tier system.
On order to show our retail partners that we care and appreciate their continued support, we are launching our Retailer Appreciation Program. We at Urban Artifact will periodically release special, limited and rare beers that will only be sold at retail locations. None of these beers will be sold at the Urban Artifact taproom, on draft or to-go. The first release for our Retailer Appreciation Program will be from our beloved Epicurean series, Salted Rye Gose.
Urban Artifact will begin shipping Salted Rye Gose the week of May 27, and taproom staff will be prepared to direct customers to retailers in their own neighborhoods to purchase it.