We often talk about the craft beer industry in terms of its might and growth across the country, which is true, but all of that collective strength can make you forget the very real smallness of the 3,739-plus fraternity and the obstacles of that smallness.
So, let’s highlight an obstacle for the small: distribution. As we’ve noted many times, the distribution system, on balance, provides opportunities in craft beer that doesn’t necessarily exist in other retail industries. But it isn’t a perfect system, and in some places it is unfair. Some might say there are battle lines being drawn. For Brenner Brewing in Wisconsin, its lack of distribution ties, according to the owner, definitely hurt it when trying to sell its wares at the Wisconsin State Fair.
From the Journal Sentinel:
Brewers who want to get into State Fair can end up paying as much as $4,000, claimed Marc Buttera, president of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild and owner of O’so Brewing Co. in Plover.
“It’s crazy when it’s that expensive for a small brewery to get in there,” Buttera said.
In Buttera’s experience, the fees are $2,500 for a brewery to get into State Fair and $1,500 for three beer lines in The Micro.
After three years in The Micro, Buttera opted out for 2015 to show his opposition to a policy he says excludes small state brewers who can’t afford the necessary fees and brewers like Brenner who don’t work with a beer distributor.
For brewers like Buttera, the better distributors will help share the cost. To be fair to the fair, there is more to the story, concerning space at the fair, etc., and we encourage you to read the rest at the Journal Sentinel.