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Tag: distribution

I’ve never really thought of STL Hops as a “blog.” I mean the word “blog” already has a pretty nasty connotation, but this website has never really been about opinions or “what beer am I drinking?” I’ve tried to keep it mostly about news and information about beer in St. Louis.

But, there are plenty of stories to be told inside the beer business. I’m hoping to create a new little series of posts talking about how that beer gets into your glass and onto the shelves from different people in the industry. This post is from me, talking a bit about one leg of the three-tier system.

There has been a lot of discussion about beer freshness on the STL Hops forums as of late. With my job now being firmly apart of the beer industry and I thought it would be productive for some to have a look  inside one aspect of the beer business: distribution.  Here are a couple of things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Forecasting is hard.
When a new brand launches you typically try and bring in as much beer as you can because people go ga-ga for it as soon as it’s released. But, after that, you’re trying to always figure out how much you’re going to need each month. With a new brand it’s almost impossible to know what you’re going to need because you have no historical data to help.

Couple that with having to usually buy beer 45-60 days in advance and it’s not an easy task. This is sometimes why you’ll see old beer sitting out there. Rather than run out a distributor may purchase A LOT to begin with just to make sure it stays on the shelves. Shelf space is a very important part of the business and if you can’t continually and regularly provide beer you may not be able to put it on the shelf the next time it comes in.

While a lot of us probably buy our beers at places like Wine and Cheese, Lukas, or Randall’s, most of the beer sold is in grocery stores.  They’re not very forgiving about empty shelf space, which means a lot of beer will be purchased to keep them happy.

It’s difficult to keep that happy balance of fresh beer, plenty of inventory, and the next cog: shipping.
2. Shipping makes things difficult.
Ever wonder why some places get their special one-off releases before other places? Sometimes it’s because the brewery doesn’t have it available. But most of the time it’s because the beer got released outside of the distributor’s shipping cycle. If I just received an order and Capt. Billy’s Bourbon Brett Imperial Mild just got released, it’ll have to wait until the next shipping cycle because it would cost an astronomical amount for the brewery to ship it outside of the normal shipping.

Which gets us to another reason we may see lots of “older” beer in the area, when you’re shipping from anywhere that’s not within a 80 mile radius, you have to order enough beer to keep shipping prices low thereby keeping beer prices (and margins) in check.

In a perfect world I’d be able to order one pallet of certain beers at a time to make sure that we run through them quickly and they’re always fresh. But, that’s not economically feasible for reasons stated above.

If Brewery A from the East Coast is selling plenty of beer each month, this isn’t a problem. But if Brewery B is kind of slow, then it’s kind of a chicken and egg scenario. People aren’t buying the beer because it’s old and I can’t order the fresh stuff because people aren’t buying beer.

3. Consumers are fickle.
I’m just as guilty of this as anyone but when Founders was first released, I couldn’t get enough, when Ska was first released, I couldn’t get enough, when Green Flash was first released, I couldn’t get enough…

See a pattern here? I’m sure you’re guilty of it as well. We all gravitate toward what’s new. We often forget about what we already have that’s awesome. I enjoyed a Lagunitas IPA last night for the first time in a while and guess what? It was pretty fantastic. Craft drinkers are not exactly the most loyal consumers on the planet and that certainly adds to the fact that beer begins to sit.

So, go out and buy something you may have not bought in a while. I don’t expect you to purchase something that’s 6 months old, but are you really going to turn your nose up at an IPA that’s 6-8 weeks old? That’s still pretty darn fresh and we’re still lucky to get some of the awesome brands we’ve been getting.

If you have any questions or want to debate some of these points, please feel free to use the comments, I’ll be happy to discuss.

The 4 Hands Brewing news just keeps on coming as STL Hops has learned today that 4 Hands has selected Major Brands as its Missouri distributor. Major Brands which carries Schlafly, New Belgium, and Stone Brewing has had a long history with craft beers in the St. Louis area.

We will first see 22oz bottles from 4 Hands before they move to 6-pack 12oz bottles for their year-round beers. Their first four year-round beers will be their Reprise Centennial Red, Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown Ale, Divided Sky Rye, along with their take on a Kolsch.

Once they’re up and going on their 12oz bottles we should begin seeing six seasonals from 4 Hands including an Imperial IPA, two different saisons, and their Imperial Stout featuring coffee from Edwardsville roaster Goshen Coffee.

Draft beer (1/6bbls and 1/2bbls) will also be a focus and we should begin seeing that in and around St. Louis in the next few weeks as well.

It all started back in November of 2010 with a business card. Then, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Evan Benn confirmed that we would be seeing Deschutes Brewery in 2011.  Well, I’m happy to report that Deschutes has found their distribution partners and we’ll begin seeing them in St. Louis toward the end of July.

STL Hops has learned that Deschutes has chosen Lohr Distributing (St. Louis City), Grey Eagle Distributing (St. Louis County) and Krey Distributing (St. Charles County) to sell their beer in the St. Louis area.  We’ll see a roll-out of Deschutes beginning in Kansas City about mid-July with St. Louis following a couple of weeks after.

The Oregon brewery, which produced about 200,000 barrels in 2010, will begin with sending out draught and bottles of their year-round beers like Mirror Pond and Black Butte with us seeing their very sought-after 22oz beers like The Abyss and Black Butte XXIII as the year progresses.

With the addition of Stone, Firestone Walker, Deschutes, and the soon to arrive Green Flash, it looks like we no longer need to head out to the west coast, because it’s headed to us.

News breaking this morning that Urban Chestnut Brewing Company has chosen Grey Eagle Distributors for their distribution in St. Louis County along with portions of Franklin and Gasconade counties.  This deal marks the first new brewery to be sold by Grey Eagle outside of the Anheuser-Busch breweries.

“It’s exciting for us,” says UCBC co-founder David Wolfe, “You need someone behind you to get big and we think Grey Eagle is the best choice.”

The deal will take place within the next 30 days.  Grey Eagle will begin by distributing the flagship Winged Nut and Zwickle beers. Distribution for the city will continue to be self-managed by UCBC.

“This distribution agreement will enable Grey Eagle to participate more fully in the growth of the craft beer category,” says, David Stokes, President and Chief Executive Officer of Grey Eagle. “Both Grey Eagle and Urban Chestnut are local companies that are committed to the communities we serve.”

There’s a lot of milestones when you open your own brewery.  Getting those first tanks, running those first test batches, tasting your first beer, and most importantly, selling that first beer.  The best part about owning a brewery is that each new milestone means you get to celebrate by drinking some beer!

Urban Chestnut Brewing Company was about to toast another accomplishment last week as they finally started distributing their beer around the area.  Their first account?  One of their biggest supporters and their neighbor, The Good Pie.

Not all parties need to be big, sometimes it’s just a few friends getting together and having a pint.  Here’s a few photos from last Thursday:

I think it’s safe to say that Urban Chestnut Brewing Company is really starting to blow up.  Since the time they opened up back in January, they’ve extended their hours, added additional beers to their tasting room, starting brewing an American Double IPA, and also hosted a festival with a Hop Queen.

But, they’re making their biggest step yet: Urban Chestnut will begin distributing beers to the St. Louis area.  That’s right, you’ll begin seeing two of UCBC’s beers hitting some of your favorite bars and restaurants around the area.

The self-distribution will begin with their two flagship beers from the Revolution and Reverence lines, the Winged Nut and the Zwickel.  Here’s a little info about both beers:

The first beer available to St. Louis retailers under its Revolution Series is ‘Winged Nut’– A beer UCBC affectionately refers to as their unusual little bird. It’s a little on the flighty side @ 5.7% ABV, and it’s a little on the wacky side because it’s brewed with finely milled chestnuts (genus castanea …for you nut freaks), Willamette hops, and fermented with a Bavarian Weissbier yeast strain. All of these nuances contribute to its ‘nutty’ personality. 5.7% ABV, IBU’s – 25, OG – 13.0 Plato.

The first beer available to St. Louis retailers under its Reverence Series is ‘Zwickel’- UCBC’s flagship lager (pronounced ‘zv-ick-el’), an unfiltered, unpasteurized, German classic (Unfiltered Helles) that finishes as a smooth-drinking, vitamin rich (from the yeast), naturally cloudy bier. Hops: Hallertau Malts: Two-Row Pilsner. ABV – 5.1%, IBU’s – 18, OG – 12.1 Plato.

So, if you want to see UCBC’s beer at your favorite watering hole, this is your opportunity to start talking the beer up. Talking to managers at restaurants/bars goes a long way in getting the word out. It’ll be exciting to see just another local option available to us thirsty beer drinkers.