Distribution Roundup: Ohio Wholesaler Eyes Canadian Craft

One Ohio distributor is looking beyond Old Glory to further capitalize on the growth of craft beer in America. Esber Beverage, a family-run wholesaler in Canton, is actively seeking Canadian craft brands to supply American retailers — which seemingly already have more SKUs than the sky has stars — with beer from the country’s northern neighbor.

The company’s goal, according to Ohio.com’s Beer Blog, “is to scoop up the highest-rated Canadian craft brewers and bring them into the U.S., starting with the Ohio, Michigan and New York markets.”

In January, we reported that Esber had acquired the rights to distribute the portfolio of Ontario-based Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery. The article added that Esber also has deals with three other Ontario breweries, with Lake of Bays Brewing Co., Camerons Brewing Co., and Grand River Brewing.

Dave Esber, who owns the company, said most American importers don’t tap the full potential of the Canadian market, which presents the opportunity for his company to do something “unique,” apart from other wholesalers.

“We’ve hit on something that’s unique and interesting and distinguishes Esber Beverage from the rest of the [import] companies,” he told the website.

Darren Smith, owner of Lake of Bays, told the site that bringing distribution to the states was a “natural next step” for his company.

“There’s so many people here,” he said. “Craft beer is so popular down here. And the Northeast is the biggest talking market in the United States.”

This threat from the North isn’t likely to quell the growth of America’s brewers, of course. Just last week a number of other craft beer companies announced plans to grow their own distribution footprints, as well.

In Georgia, Eagle Creek Brewing Co. is growing its coverage and eyeing markets outside of its home state.

Eagle Creek owner Franklin Dismuke, told the Connect Statesboro, “We will cover Georgia like a doughnut.”

“The hole in the middle represents the absence, so far, of a Macon distributor,” the article clarifies. But later this summer, the brewery hopes to fill out the rest of the state, while also expanding into neighboring South Carolina.

Meanwhile, Mississippi’s Lazy Magnolia will reportedly begin its rollout in Illinois this month, and is currently working to finalize its distribution plans.

“I can tell you that we are working through contracts at the moment,” Lazy Magnolia founder, Mark Henderson, told Brewbound.

Joshua Boggs, the brewery’s regional brand manager, said Lazy Magnolia will be distributed by the OneIllinois Group, a network of MillerCoors wholesalers, RJ Distributing in central Illinois, and World Class Beer.

Finally, in Palm Desert, Calif., La Quinta Brewing Co. is about to grow its retail presence, per a new distribution agreement with Heimark Distributing.

According to The Desert Sun, Heimark will distribute cans of the brewery’s Poolside Blonde and Indian Canyon IPA to “more local grocery stores,” while also increasing its draft accounts.

“This new relationship with Heimark will give us the opportunity to grow our footprint even larger within the desert and further solidify our current relationships with our customers,” brewery founder Scott Stokes said in a statement obtained by the Sun.