A Strategy for Refreshing Your Core Lineup

Virginia Beer Company has been in distribution since opening in 2016, and typically has four beers in its core rotation.

Three of the beers in its portfolio are always the same, but the fourth beer is periodically rotated with a different beer from either its seasonal or pilot offerings.

“We rotate our fourth offering every two to three years,” co-founder Rob Willey said. “Three of our offerings have been core offerings since day one, but every so often we swap out our lowest performer. It adds rejuvenation to our core lineup.”

The Williamsburg, Virginia brewery wanted the best of both worlds when it started out. It wanted the taproom with unique offerings, but it also wanted to expand its reach through distribution, making its beer accessible and affordable.

“We have a five-barrel pilot system and a 30-barrel larger scale,” Wiley said. “We wanted to be able to produce and create high quality recipes but with the economies of scale it would be more affordable over time, making our brand more reachable to fans and craft beer consumers through distribution.

“We go taproom only for small batch beers. Our taproom is our launching board for brands — it’s our test kitchen. Recipes that sell faster might get bumped up to that 30 barrel scale if we see a trend, and added to our seasonal or flagship lineup in the future.”

Having a strategy for putting your beer out on the shelves is important, Willey stressed, noting that the pandemic had changed the world for craft beer. Their seasonal offerings that are distributed in cans range anywhere from four to 12 different releases to complement the four core beers in the lineup.

With smaller and smaller breweries making their way onto retail shelves since the pandemic, Willey cautioned against being complacent when it comes to distribution.

“We’re seeing more diversity on the shelves,” Willey said. “Small craft breweries are showing up in bottle shops, and stores where we didn’t previously see them.You’ve always needed to brew as much as you could and sell as much as you could, but there’s something to be said for looking for every avenue to do that. You can’t just expect people to come to your taproom anymore.”

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