What Little Beast Brewing Likes About Self Distribution

Little Beast Brewing makes just under 2,000 barrels a year and is sold in four states. 

While it works with distributors to sell its beer outside of its home state of Oregon, it still self distributes in the Portland area where the brewery is headquartered.

Partner and Brand Manager Brenda Crow is a big proponent of self distribution, noting that it works especially well for the right brewery in the right situation for it.

“We’re narrow and deep,” Crow said. “We’re located in the Portland metro area and we want to spend our energy and optimize there.”

Crow shared her thoughts about self distribution during a seminar at the Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, listing reasons for small breweries with a limited reach to consider the model rather than entering into a contract with a distributor.

Building Your Own Equity

Crow noted that entering into a contract agreement with distributors could limit a brewery’s ability to build equity.

“They basically own the branding rights and equity of your brand. When you collectively throw the sales together, you’re growing their equity,” Crow said. “Contracts rarely enforce accountability of performance, and when they don’t work out it can be really costly to buy your brand rights back. A lot of people can’t afford to do that.”

Maximizing your Portfolio

Crow said another compelling reason to self distribute is portfolio maximization.

“When we get out and are talking to our customers, we’ve got 100% buy-in on our portfolio,” Crow said. “When we’re working with distributors, they may not buy into our portfolio 100%.”

Being fully invested in what you’re selling can help you make a more compelling argument, which brought Crow to her third point.

Telling Your Own Story 

The best person to tell your story to retailers is often you.

“Direct connection is really compelling,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to tell your story directly, and don’t underestimate the impact of that in a crowded market. I think it always comes down to being the master of your destiny, and that’s why we chose that path.

An Added Bonus

Brad Depuyt is the Senior Vice President of Fort George Distribution, and he said that spending time in self distribution could have an added benefit for small breweries who may someday choose to work with distributors down the line.

“You’re building your brand through dealing directly with retailers, and you’ll be getting an education because you’ll understand how the (distribution) business works,” he said. “You may gain sympathy for distributors if you do enter into a traditional agreement because you will understand how difficult it can be.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.