Is Your Brewery The Right Size for Distribution?

As your brewery starts to grow the thought process for a need to send product outside your taproom can develop. Is there a magic number in production volume or some other metric to determine when that time happens? And for some, starting in distribution can happen. It really does come down to what you feel can work best for your company, but breweries like Karl Strauss, Societe and Beachwood discussed this at the 2023 California Craft Brewers Summit this year.

Markstein Beverage has some smaller breweries that Brian Perry explained that knowing how fast you want to grow is important as well.

“Know what your plan of attack is,” he said. “It’s all depending on how fast you want to grow and what your plan is, as far as chains, and how much space you have. 

“If you have a smaller brewery then obviously it’s how much can you put out in that year.” 

Perry even noted if you can do self distribution — although some states cannot — it will teach you a lot of what a distributor needs to do day in and day out.

“Understand what we go through on our side may help you realize that in the beginning,” he said.

READ MORE: Experiences From Self Distribution

Whether or not you have a wholesaler, Beachwood’s Julian Shrago said having an internal sales staff is critical for anybody succeeding. Don’t just rely on your distro partners to sell your product for you.

“You have to have that personal touch, you have to have somebody that is dedicated to your brand only,” he said. “We found great success holding on to all of our sales staff after we signed with a distributor and they work very well with our distributor. 

“It all works in concert. And I think it’s 100% necessary.”

Working together is what matters, added Chad Heath of Karl Strauss.

“It’s not just about feet on the street going and calling on accounts, it’s feet on the street, working with the wholesaler’s sales reps to educate them on how to best sell your brand,” he added. “That is every bit as important as people having feet on the streets and working directly with consumers and having that personal touch. 

“That constant education with the buyer at an account or the sales team with a wholesalership is going to be is very important. We’ve tried it both ways — we tried it without people and with people — 100% you got to have people.”

Another common misperception Heath said is, you make all these different beers and they take it all away and it sells.

“That is not fair at all,” he said. “You might want to look at two or three brands that you’re going to be wanting to see on the marketplace, maybe put a seasonal or a special release calendar together. That’s about it. 

“If you’re going to put 20 beers in the marketplace, do not expect your wholesaler to take them all. That’s just also a bad idea and not a foregone conclusion.”

Photo courtesy Adobe Stock Images

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