Distribution Roundup: New Routes to Market for Craft Brewers

Back in February, Reyes Holdings acquired the distribution rights to Coca-Cola in Chicago. As Brewbound reported at the time, the acquisition marked Reyes’ “first major foray into beverage distribution outside of the beer category.”

It made sense: who would turn down the rights to distribute one of the world’s most recognizable brands?

On the flip side, it also makes sense that distributors dealing traditionally only in the non-alcoholic beverage space might try to get in on the immense popularity of craft beer.

Corwin Beverage Company is one such wholesaler. The owners of Corwin, which has been distributing Pepsi and hundreds of other non-alcoholic brands in Southwest Washington since 1941, have created Kendall’s Pioneer Distributing to sell locally manufactured wines and beers, according to the Vancouver Business Journal.

The company is expected to begin operating the first week of June, distributing to Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, Wahkiakum, Pacific, and Lewis Counties, according to the article.

“We saw a void and a need for better distribution of local craft beers and local wines,” John Hartney, general manager of Kendall’s, told the website. “Our core purpose in creating this new company is to give small local businesses the opportunity to grow. Hopefully we can grow together.”

The initial beer brands the wholesaler will carry are Doomsday Brewing of Washougal, Wash. and Astoria Brewing, out of Astoria, Ore.

Kendall’s isn’t the only new wholesaler in the country that sees the need to focus on craft. In Ohio, 17th Star Distributing has launched to meet the increased demand, as craft’s popularity has yet to find the ceiling. The company won’t carry large domestic brands. It won’t carry wine. Just craft beer.

“Craft beer is not a fad; it’s a movement. It’s a shift in how we think about beer,” co-founder Greg May told the Columbus Underground. “We realized that the beer business is rapidly changing everywhere except in the distribution segment. That’s why we came to be. Smaller brewers need a distributor more able to meet their needs.”

Currently, 17th Star Distributes brands from Abbey Brewing Co. (Abiquiú, NM), Cellar Dweller Brewing Co. (Morrow, Ohio), Cismontane Brewing Co. (Ranchero Santa Margarita, Calif.), Millersburg Brewing Co. (Millersburg, Ohio), White Birch Brewing (Hooksett, NH), and GEO. Wiedemann Brewing Co. (Newport, Ky.)

The company’s reach is currently limited to Franklin and Delaware Counties, the article adds, but will extend to include the Dayton markets in the coming weeks.

While not as brand spanking new, Remarkable Liquids LLC, in Albany, NY, was also founded on the principle of selling only craft brands (of beer, cider, and mead) throughout the state, and the distributor just added another brand to its portfolio in Telegraph Brewing, from Santa Barbara, Calif.

This isn’t the West Coast brewery’s first expedition east, but it is its first entry into the Empire State.

“We currently have a small footprint in the Northeast,” said founder and CEO Brian Thompson in a press release. “[W]e are very excited to expand our presence in the region and work with a distributor that has such an amazing portfolio of craft beers.”

The brewery’s year-round beers will be available on draft and in bottles and it is also shipping allocations of its limited-release and seasonal offerings, per the company’s statement.

“We couldn’t be more excited to partner with Telegraph,” added Spencer Noakes, Remarkable Liquids’ general manager. “Our mission is to partner only with those suppliers that provide world class liquid and Telegraph surely fits that criteria. For those New York craft beer drinkers that are not yet familiar with the offerings of Telegraph, they should prepare to be amazed.”

Not quite the geographical leap from California to New York, but Saugatuck Brewing Co. is entering new markets as well. The brewery, out of Douglas, Mich., has signed agreements with wholesalers in Ohio and Minnesota for distribution in select areas in each market.

According to MiBiz, Beverage Distributors of Cleveland and House of Munch in Toledo will distribute Saugatuck’s brands in northern Ohio. Bernick’s Beverages & Vending has been tapped for coverage in Minnesota.

“We are very pleased to add these two craft beer savvy markets [in] Michigan and Illinois as we continue to grow our production and expand our distribution footprint,” Ric Gillette, president and CEO of Saugatuck Brewing, said in a statement obtained by the website.