What Are the Benefits to Self Distribution?

Leaving the confines of your own four walls can be a big decision for a craft brewery. Inside, a brewer has total control over how the product is handled from grist to the pull of a tap handle.

But for all the creative poetic waxing, money still needs to be made to further the business and one step is distributing the liquid outside of a brewery’s taproom.

A big benefit breweries should look at is the additional margin it can gain from self distribution.

“Almost as important, though, is getting to create relationships directly with retailers when first starting,” noted Fargo Brewing‘s Aaron Hill. “Additionally, I think it’s good for breweries to see what distribution is like — challenges of gaining tap lines, shelf placement, printing POS and hauling product all over and into accounts. If or when you sign with a distributor — you have much more respect for the work it takes to be a successful distributor — and the challenges (it makes you appreciate distributors much more).”

La Cumbre Brewing still self distributes and president Jeff Erway said he was convinced by an employee to go that route. Erway said as long as that employee lead the project.

“He has built the best damn beer distributor in the area,” Erway said. “Not only do we provide our retailers, restaurants and bars with the greatest beer available, we also provide the best sales, service, know-how and draft quality. I absolutely love distributing our own beer and I can’t imagine us getting to where we are without that part of our business.”


Monetary values aside, there are added perks to “going at it alone” noted Augie Carton of Carton Brewing.

“Every day we are working each of the people on the street talking about our beers has had a conversation with someone making our beers before they ever left our house,” he said. “The value of that is worth the inconvenience of not just passing your beers to a broker.”

There is a flipside to that coin.

“In terms of efficiency, having one or two consolidated pickups per week by the distributor and NOT having to buy a fleet of vehicles to make (possibly) one case or keg deliveries all day long is definitely a plus,” said Midnight Sun Brewing Vice President of Sales, Marketing, Business and Brand Development, Barb Miller.

The Alaska brewery self distributed for a few months when it opened in 1995, but now uses a distributor.

“In terms of invoicing/AR, having invoices for consolidated weekly pickups and NOT having to collect on many invoices is also a benefit,” Miller said.

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