Last week, Bellingham, Mass.-based beer distributor, Massachusetts Beverage Alliance (MBA), announced the launch of Homegrown Distribution. The offshoot of MBA will focus on the former portfolio’s overlooked craft brands.
Homegrown’s clients will include boutique brands such as Grimm Artisanal Ales, Foley Brothers, and Modern Times. MBA, meanwhile, will continue managing its larger brands such as Boulevard, Revolution, and Rhinegeist. It plans to sell them to a select number of retailers.
This distribution model is the future of small-brewer distributorship. Choosing a distribution partner is one of the most important decisions a brewery can make. Delivering beer in one’s own city is a time-consuming drain of resources; doing so out of state is nearly impossible for small brands; and once you’ve selected a partner, you’re pretty much stuck with them.
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Boutique distributors offer a built-in network for small brands to latch onto — the target audience and retailers are already there. As much as a brewery will be competing with the other brands in a small distributor’s portfolio, it will also benefit from going to the same places with brands its future consumers already love. Aligning with similarly minded brands to reach target markets is key to new craft breweries’ success.
Other smart examples of this model exist, too. Consider Night Shift Distribution, in Chelsea, Mass. (started by Night Shift Brewing of Everett, Mass.), Crooked Stave Artisan Ales’ CSA Distributing, and Colorado Craft Distributors.
All-Male Panel of Beverage Bigwigs Struggles to Unlock the Feminine Mystique
At the National Beer Wholesalers Association’s (NBWA) annual convention last week, which took place September 23 to 26 in San Diego, bigwigs from Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Yuengling, and Dogfish Head addressed the need to connect with more consumers. One area of focus: women.
“You’ve got to be able to have the conversations in your own company with the female consumer to get their perspective,” said Phil Rosse, president of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Mark Anthony Brands, which also owns White Claw Hard Seltzer and MXD Cocktail Co. Rosse said the company has found a “sweet spot” with female consumers that way, Brewbound reports.
Um, duh. As much as I agree with Rosse’s argument that reaching different types of consumers starts within the organization itself, it’s kind of counterintuitive to declare this message without any visible female representation on the panel. The optics, as they say in politics, are bad here. Rosse said a third of his organization is female. Leading by example, are we? Women are an important segment, are they? Then where were the women on this panel?
If we’re expected to be taking advice about reaching women from a bunch of high-powered male executives, this meeting had a bit of an oversight. Imagine what it felt like to be a woman in that audience. Imagine what it would feel like to be black, Latino, LGBTQ, or any other minority in a similar scenario, listening to a panel touting the benefits of reaching your social group, without any visible representation from that community.
Boston Beer Throws Cash at Small Businesses, Hopes It Sticks
At the Great American Beer Festival’s annual breakfast hosted by Boston Beer last week, founder Jim Koch announced a $1 million grant program that will help fund small food and beverage businesses. This adds to the company’s Brewing an American Dream program, which has also provided millions of dollars to small businesses.
Koch said, “Some of ‘em are promising so we said, ‘Let’s take a million dollars and see if we can create a hundred successful small food and beverage business[es] in the artisanal space.’ They create jobs and economic development just like craft beer does.”
At first glance, this seems, well, nice. Boston Beer has helped businesses and brewers tremendously over the last 10 years, providing small business loans to the tune of more than $20 million, and supporting and coaching 50 small brewers through its “experienceship” program.
But there’s no such thing as a free breakfast. Koch also took the opportunity to announce a new ad campaign debuting next year centered around — big shocker — Boston Lager.
The ads will feature the tagline, “Brewed inefficiently since 1984,” promoting Boston Lager’s independent values. But for me, Koch’s rhetoric blurs the line between industrial and independent. In the craft-versus- corporate duel, it’s hard to tell who’s who.
Of course, every brewery owner is running a business, no matter how big or small. There are boards to impress, ROIs to deliver, and bottom lines to keep sturdy.
Is Boston Beer small compared to multinational corporations like Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Constellation, and so on? Absolutely. Is Boston Beer small compared to the businesses it’s helping? Well, no. We’re talking about a company that announced a $15 to $25 million ad budget for 2018, and one that sold almost 4 million barrels of beer, cider, and sparkling water last year.
Koch’s attitude — casually spreading around millions of dollars, toasting Trump for his tax cuts — is a little confusing, to say the least. I like to believe he has good intentions and is doing all of this in the name of good beer and entrepreneurship. But, as any craft beer lover can attest, it’s hard to trust anyone’s intentions when millions of dollars are involved.