Chalk up another win for Wirtz Beverage Group as it tries to establish a toehold in the Chicago craft scene.
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits announced yesterday that it will extend an existing distribution agreement with Wirtz to include two new markets: Illinois and Minnesota.
Wirtz, which is headquartered in Chicago, currently operates distributorships in five states: Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nevada. The company already sells Ballast Point products in Nevada, and the new agreement makes Ballast Point its first system-wide craft beer brand.
“By bringing in one partner to handle our distribution needs in multiple states, we are able to focus on what we love and what we do best: making real good beer,” Earl Kight, Ballast Point’s VP of Sales & Marketing said in a statement. “The Wirtz team is a real match to our values and approach to craft beer. We are really excited about expanding to Chicago and beyond.”
Wirtz will begin distributing Ballast Point beers in Illinois on May 1 and in Minnesota on July 1.
The addition of Ballast Point helps to strengthen a small, but growing, craft beer portfolio for Wirtz Beverage in Illinois. It’s the fourth company in the last four months to ink a partnership with the distributor. Danny Wirtz, the company’s senior vice president, told Brewbound.com that more could be on the way.
“We have a very unique opportunity from a portfolio building standpoint where we can be highly selective,” he said. “We want to have the right mix of brands and there is no rush. We have the chance to enter into this game aggressively but in a very structured way.”
Wirtz Beverage Group, which also sells wine and spirits, entered the craft beer market in Illinois in January when it launched Deschutes Brewery beers statewide. Since the launch, Wirtz Beverage Illinois has signed contracts with Michigan’s Greenbush Brewing and specialty importer Vanberg & DeWulf, which boasts a portfolio of 50 beers from 12 international breweries.
Ballast Point has grown impressively over the last two years, increasing its production from 29,000 barrels in 2011 to 48,000 barrels in 2012. The company anticipates another year of double-digit growth and projects production volumes to be in the neighborhood of 80,000 barrels in 2013. The company is also joining the expanding list of craft brewers looking to capitalize on the growth of canned craft beer, a category in which U.S. supermarket sales have skyrocketed from $1.2 million in 2008 to $32.6 million in 2012. Ballast Point will launch 12 oz. cans of its four core offerings — Pale Ale, Sculpin IPA, Big Eye IPA and Longfin Lager — at the end of March.
A full press release discussing Ballast Point’s multi-state distribution agreement with Wirtz is below.
Chicago, IL — Today, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits and Wirtz Beverage announce a new partnership to distribute Ballast Point beers in Illinois and Minnesota. The agreement brings the beers to the Chicago market for the first time and also makes them available statewide in both Illinois and Minnesota. This agreement builds upon an existing partnership in Nevada and makes Ballast Point the first system-wide craft beer partner for Wirtz Beverage.
“By bringing in one partner to handle our distribution needs in multiple states, we are able to focus on what we love and what we do best: making real good beer,” noted Earl Kight, Ballast Point VP of Sales & Marketing. “The Wirtz team is a real match to our values and approach to craft beer. We are really excited about expanding to Chicago and beyond.”
Established in 1996 by a small group of home brewers, Ballast Point is known for adding its own touch to its beers, from bringing a hoppy twist to a porter or adding four types of malt to its amber ale. As a result, the San Diego-based company has earned industry acclaim with three gold medals as well as the ‘Small Brewery of the Year’ award at the World Beer Cup. The Ballast Point portfolio includes more than 50 styles of beer including IPAs, pale ales, amber ales, porters and wheat beers, as well as a family of craft spirits that includes gin, rum, vodka and whiskey.
“Chicago is a great craft beer town and consumers are more knowledgeable and more demanding for great products than ever before,” explained David Kahle Wirtz Beverage Illinois Craft Manager and Master Cicerone. “Our ability to move the Ballast Point brands statewide in both Illinois and Minnesota is a huge advantage.”
“In Minnesota, we’ve changed the way we go to market and are really focused on growing craft beers throughout the state,” said Sam Bremer, Director of Beer Sales, Wirtz Beverage Minnesota. “We’re very excited to count Ballast Point as a partner and share its beers with customers and consumers throughout Minnesota.”
Ballast Point joins Deschutes, Greenbush Brewery and Vanberg & DeWulf as the fourth partner to join the Wirtz Beverage Illinois craft beer portfolio; the company officially entered the craft beer business in January 2013. As for its Minnesota and Nevada affiliates, both boast extensive beer experience and portfolios.
The new agreement becomes effective May 1 in Illinois and July 1 in Minnesota.
About Ballast Point:
What started in 1996 as a small group of home brewers who simply wanted to make great beer evolved into the adventurers known as Ballast Point. From bringing a hoppy twist to a porter, or adding four types of malt to its amber ale, to creating a breakthrough gold-medal winning IPA, the San Diego-based company is known for adding its own touch and asking if there’s a better way. Today, an internationally recognized leader in the craft brewing and spirits industry, the company makes over 50 styles of beer and bottles five spirits. For more information, visit www.ballastpoint.com.
About Wirtz Beverage Group:
Wirtz Beverage Group is one of the nation’s leading alcohol beverage distributors with operations in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada and Wisconsin. With nearly $2 billion in annual sales and nearly 3,000 employees, the company calls the industry’s elite beer, wine and spirit distributors its partners. To learn more about Wirtz Beverage and its partners, connect with the company on Facebook and Twitter.