Is An Expansion of Distribution Always the Right Answer?

Saint Arnold Brewing did a little bit of what Brock Wagner called an “intellectual experiment” around a decade back by expanding distribution into Florida.

The founder of the Houston-based brewery told Brewer during the interview for the March/April cover story that the brewery is fairly content building itself into a large brand in its region versus being a truly “regional brand” that is multiple states. Instead, the brewery focuses on its home state of Texas and into Louisiana since it has good pull while being close to home.

“Florida, to me, had similarities to Texas: The climate is hot and humid. Same as Houston. Texas is kind of part of the South, but it really has its own culture independent of the South. Florida, I would argue, is similar that way,” Wagner said. “Florida had a very undeveloped craft beer market when we looked at expanding into it. But by the time we actually rolled out in the state, there were about 50 breweries. So they’d started to see an explosion and that made it really hard for us. We continued to grow in Florida, but we just never hit a critical mass. So I kind of said, ‘Oh, that was interesting. Let’s get back to focusing on Texas and Louisiana.’ “

Instead of watching sales flounder to nothing, Saint Arnold pulled the plug on the notion and dug in deeper by investing in staff closer to home and developing key markets in the state of Texas and Louisiana.

Never using traditional advertising, Wagner said the Saint Arnold sales staff out in the main market help make the biggest connections along with dedicated social media and a strong “army” of newsletters to fans is the brewery’s main outreach.

“We really try to reach out to people in the market and involve the markets and try to promote accounts that are supporting us,” he said. “There’s no magic silver bullet. It’s just execution and legwork and a lot of hard work by our team.”

Photo courtesy Saint Arnold

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