Go West Young Man … and East! Why Mason’s Ships from Maine to California & the UK

A state like Maine houses one of the most competitive beer markets in the country. Yet, it’s also one of the smaller populations when it comes to craft-centric audiences. That can mean intense competition for a newer brewery. Mason’s Brewing Company experienced this right from launch in 2016 and felt the need to be different than breweries around the Brewer, Maine facility (across the river from Bangor).

Chris Morley, who designed the brewery after extensive travel through the US and Europe, found spots in his business plan that would make his brewery different, yet successful.

One plan was distribution outside of Maine. And although New Hampshire is a good market, Morley was thinking further away. Being in the California market was a concept kicked around a couple of years ago, but the logistics and margins needed to make sense. The keys needed to keep the beer fresh all the way across the country was paramount and finding a partner to do it took time. But now the beer is kept cold in trucks all the way to delivery, and Californians are eating up the East Coast Hazy IPAs that Mason’s can deliver.

“California came back around in June (after a hit during the pandemic), and we’ve sent a shipment of a minimum four pallets every month,” he said in late August. “The feedback from the West Coast has been insane, which is great. I think our vibe, our liquid, and the can art all really fit a ‘Comic-Con, California’ culture.”

“People totally kind of geek out over that stuff. And it’s been received really well. And if you look at our Untappd … our beers are actually trending higher on the West Coast than they do on the East Coast.”

What was really hard, because Mason’s is not a big brewery, was the logistics of getting a trucking company that would travel to the farthest point on the east coast, pick the beer up and then run all the way across the country.

“We just got trucking prices and then backtracked into it from there,” Morley said. “Here’s what I need to get, can we make this number work. We were able to fall within that market space.

“I can see that in the next 12-18 months, they’re going to potentially compete with the amount of beer we send out to our home state. I couldn’t be happier with that prospect.”

Along with Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, California is the next largest market for Mason’s while it also does ‘airdrops’ into Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Even those mini drops helped keep production at around 80-90% of the norm compared to numbers Mason’s did in 2019 while not having to dump any coded beer in the spring.

As Mason’s moved out to California for distribution, Morley did know that they would need to have a talk with San Marcos’s Mason Ale Works. Other than a collaboration with Beer Zombies called Mason’s Revenge, Mason Ale Works and Mason’s Brewing have been able to cohabitate in shared markets.

“That’s the only one that gets a little confusing, but whatever,” Morley said. “Any press is good press. So if any people think it’s ours and they buy his beer, great.”

Mason’s also works with three export companies to send quarterly shipments across Europe and the UK.

“We’ve been just trying to keep up with what’s going on in our current markets,” he noted but added that they adjust production so that they can package for the overseas orders when needed.

“Nothing really sits around in a warehouse,” he said. “It’s usually: we can it, wrap it up, and then the next day they pick it up and out the door it goes which works really, really well.”

Morley feels balance and timing are key for Mason’s. Being able to see some growth (the hope is to finish the year almost 1,000 barrels more in production volume over the 2019 figures of around 1,750 barrels) helps justify a million-dollar expansion they finished late last year despite the global pandemic.

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