Ska Brewing has ceased beer sales in Texas, refining its distribution footprint to 12 states to focus more on its local and regional markets. Ska Brewing was distributing beer to Texas for nine years until this announcement, which is like 90 in craft beer years. So, why the change? We sent over a few questions to get behind the decision-making process, and Ska Brewing Cofounder and CEO Dave Thibodeau boils it down to two things: the brewery being near its capacity limit (34,000 bbls annually) coupled with the challenges of operating a brewery in a remote location.
“Crafting beer in the mountains makes for some big logistical challenges, and unfortunately Texas has been tough,” Thibodeau said. “Quite frankly, if we ever want to enter this market again we are going to have to allocate more resources and brew and sell a lot more beer.”
Said another way, sales were not down, but the competitive landscape is different now and to keep sales at expectations, or to grow the market, the juice was no longer worth the squeeze.
“Sales in Texas have always been where we thought they would be, but as it continues to get more competitive, we are just not a big enough brewery to throw a lot of resources into a market this size,” said Kristen Muraro, sales and marketing director. “With the growth of craft beer and more breweries opening up we had to make a choice — more feet on the street in Texas or be content with focusing our resources closer to home.”
Should we read into this as “craft beer is too competitive these days for larger distribution plans in general?” Muraro says:
“Let’s just say if we were opening a brewery today, our bread and butter model of 1995 may not be the model we would use. We’d make it work though!”
About that closer-to-home thing …
Ska Brewing beers are still available across Colorado, Arizona, Southern California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico and Utah. A few of those stand out as being considerably further from Durango, Colo., than Texas, so what makes the trip to, say, Hawaii worth it?
“Believe it or not, our isolated location in southwest Colorado makes certain routes more logistically challenging when it comes to shipping, and Texas is one of those,” Muraro said. “We do not ship direct to Hawaii, for example — that all goes thru Stone, our southern California distributor. Similar with Illinois. We are able to consolidate a lot of our shipping to the Midwest which makes things a lot easier.”
The note about being at capacity also stands out. Any expansion plans being mulled to increase capacity?
“Our goal has always been sustainable growth,” Muraro said. “We have been fortunate in our timing on expansions in the past and will continue to be strategic on our plans for the future. Stay tuned!”
Ska Brewing maintains a great relationship with its Texas distribution company Ben E. Keith Beverages and is proud to welcome a legion of Texas-based guests to its Durango World Headquarters all year long.