Brown Distributing to Shed Craft Brands in Western Florida

Brown Distributing, a Florida-based beer wholesaler that sells a variety of domestic, imported and craft beers throughout the state, will sell certain parts of its distribution business in western Florida, Brewbound has learned.

The company, which lists beer, wine, spirits and non-alcoholic products from about 75 suppliers on its website, began informing craft brewery owners throughout the country of its decision to reassign the distribution rights to some brands on Tuesday night.

In an email sent to one Florida-based craft brewery owner and obtained by Brewbound, Jason Brown, the vice president of the West Palm Beach-based wholesaler, said the distribution rights in “certain western areas of Florida” were being sold to “various current Florida wholesalers.”

“Your proposed new wholesalers are extremely excited about representing your brands in their markets,” the email read.

That brewery was also sent seven different “supplier consent requests” that named successor wholesalers. The proposed successors include Naples-based Coastal Beverage (A-B), Sarasota’s Gold Coast Eagle (A-B), St. Petersburg’s Great Bay Distributors (A-B), Punta Gorda-based Peace River Distributing (A-B), Tampa’s Pepin Distributing (A-B), Fort Myers-based Suncoast Beverage (A-B) and L&H Investments.

Another nationally distributed craft brand was only sent one supplier consent request, however.

The transactions are expected to close on February 23, according to the documents.

It’s unclear at this time if all craft brands currently sold by Brown Distributing will be impacted by the sale.

On its website, Brown said it distributes beer from more than four dozen craft breweries, including Dogfish Head, Founders, Coronado and Uinta Brewing, among many others. Calls placed to the owners of those breweries were not returned as of press time.

In his email, Jason Brown, who did not immediately respond to phone calls, indicated that Brown Distributing would continue to sell craft beer in certain parts of Florida.

“We also look forward to our continued mutual success in the markets where we will continue to represent your brands,” his email read.

Brown’s decision to sell its craft business in the western part of the state comes about 20 months after the company sold the rights to certain craft brands in some central and northern Florida markets.

At the time of that transaction, Ross Appel, an associate attorney with Komlossy Law who works with Florida craft brewers, told Brewbound that while a clause in the state’s franchise law requires a manufacturer’s written consent before a distributor can “sell, transfer or assign” control of any brand to another wholesaler, brewers cannot “unreasonably withhold consent” to any transition.

One brewery owner who sells beer in all 50 states, works with Brown in Florida and who spoke to Brewbound under the condition of anonymity, described these types of transactions as “disruptive.”

“We don’t just blindly accept the transfer or sale,” the source said. “We get smart quickly about who the right wholesaler might be for us in the territory. We do a quick review of the franchise law in the state and see what our options are.”

The brewery owner also estimated that the rights to nationally distributed craft brands were sold or transferred about “five to 10 times per year.”

“Anytime you go through this, it is disruptive,” the source said. “You have to re-plan, re-present, re-educate the wholesalers on our brand.”

This story will be updated as more details become available.

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