Melvin Brewing to Expand Distribution in Bay Area, New York

Melvin Brewing has begun shipping limited quantities of beer to New York, and parts of California’s Bay Area, as part of a plan to build buzz for the brand before officially launching in those territories in early 2018.

“This is very much a low-hanging fruit model,” Melvin Brewing sales director Ted Whitney told Brewbound. “We’re not looking for super deep distribution. We’re looking to get out to the very best beer bars and very best beer stores.”

Beginning this week, small amounts of the brewery’s core products — Melvin IPA, Hubert pale ale, Heyzeus Mexican-style lager, Killer Bees blonde ale and 2×4 double IPA — will be available in New York via Remarkable Liquids, whose footprint includes Manhattan, Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, and Albany.

Those five beers will also begin showing up at retail accounts in Oakland and the East Bay later this month via Mindful Distributors, which also serves as the the Wyoming-headquartered brewery’s wholesaler in San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento. Melvin has also been seeding the San Diego and Los Angeles markets through Craft Beer Guild for the last two months, Whitney added.

Melvin will send a monthly shipment — about 1,900 case equivalents — to the new territories, Whitney said.

The company’s approach of seeding a market with limited quantities of beer prior to a more robust rollout allows Melvin to “establish a little bit of a presence,” and maintain a feeling of “newness” before it attempts to compete more aggressively with local and national players alike, Whitney said.

“You get to double dip on that new period and that new factor and get to be the shiny thing for a little bit longer,” he said. “And in a market with 5,000 brewers trying to gain market share, you’ve got to do everything you can to be the shiny thing for as long as possible.”

“We’re really using these opportunities to seed markets as places to send beer as capacity develops,” he added.

Whitney said New York and California are “likely” the last markets that Melvin will open before pivoting to a new strategy of adding distribution in markets where it also plans to open brewpubs.

The company already operates two brewpubs in Wyoming, and a satellite location in Bellingham, Washington. A fourth brewpub location will be announced before next month’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Whitney said. Official lease and liquor license details are still being finalized, however, and Whitney declined to reveal the specific location.

The plan, at least for now, is to task each new Melvin brewpub with brewing different styles of beer instead of recreating the company’s core product line. Whitney pointed to Melvin’s outpost in Bellingham, where the company brews Swedish-inspired beers alongside new IPAs, as an example of things to come.

“It will be very similar to — we call it Melvingham — how the Melvinham brewpub looks,” Whitney said. “So it’ll be putting in 10 [or] 15-barrel systems, depending on the size of the spaces that we’re rolling into, and opening up concepts that work in the market.”

Melvin is currently on pace to sell 20,000 barrels of beer before the end of the year, more than double last year’s 7,463 barrels. The company is also eyeing 40,000 barrels of total production in 2018, Whitney added.

“Might as well go big,” he said. “If we hit 33,000, we’re making financial targets, and I’m stoked about that. But looking at our total penetration in existing markets and just our overall momentum, I think we have the opportunity to roughly double our total sales.”

Already in 2017, the majority of Melvin’s markets are up as much as 215 percent, Whitney added.

“Almost a third of our growth is coming from Colorado right now,” he said. “We’re doing really well in Portland and Seattle and adding in the ‘seeding markets’ really doesn’t hurt. Then our home market — Jackson Hole — has really embraced us, and our distributor is doing a fantastic job.”