Monday, February 20, 2012

A distributors rant - how very big of him to show us the way

I just came across a blog post on of a distributor's rant on how craft beer needs the 3-tier system and that their success is because of the 3-tier system and that they should bow to the ever mighty 3-tier system and blah, blah, blah.

For your reading pleasure

Let me start off by saying, there is a lot in his post that is true, and in fact in a perfect world most of it is true. The problem is, we don't live in a perfect world. Yes, without the 3-tier system and prohibition, craft beer probably doesn't exist. Yes, economies of scale for craft brewers would make it impossible to self-distribute and be successful.

The problem I have is that it isn't perfect, not even close. He says it in his post, distributors will spend time on winners and those that will be successful because they don't make enough money on them otherwise to be worth the time. So why can't another distributor open up in a region and start catering to these brands and others? Why can't a brewery easily move to another distributor if one doesn't show them the time of day? I know WHAAA... Get over it, it is business, do better. Distributors that are good and fair and treat beer well are few and far between. They are used to treating pasteurized beer poorly and seeing it survive just fine, why can't the little guys do that. I don't want to sell beer that goes bad or doesn't have a shelf life? I say WHAA to that, get a clue. Yes it costs money to refrigerate but maybe you need to understand the product you sell better.

In politics we have a perceived class warfare going on. We have had a class warfare going with distributors too. It needs to stop. This guy and now me probably aren't making it better but I will try, if distributors try too. I have got to know a few distributors around Omaha and Lincoln as of late and they seem to be trying and wanting to win and seem to be getting it because of a few reps that get it. The lines of communication need to be open between brewers and distributors in order for this to work. To pull this arrogant rant/stunt that, in a nutshell, says that the distributors are the reason for craft beers existence and you should kiss our feet every chance you get is BS and not constructive. Every craft brewer I talk to understands and appreciates the purpose of a distributor, they just don't like how things have evolved and how they have little control of their product after it leaves their facility. They understand they have to sell their products to get on taps and they don't have a problem with that. What they want is a fair shake, it is not fair because revenue makes it inherintly unfair and a non-starter essentially. How can you compete with a major global corporation that breaks the rules/laws to keep shelf space and get tap handles (they do, don't let them lie, even craft brewers break the rules)? Distributors should help to make that fair. Are we getting there, yes. We are not there yet and the only way we will get there is if there is a shift in how distributors understand the product they are dealing with. There is obviously responsibility on the brewers to make great beer and make enough to meet their demand, but none of them are going to pasteurize their beer so treat it with the respect it deserves and understand that warm beer will age and degrade very quickly, it just will, even the best made stuff.

I don't have a lot of time to expand on the authors points and just dropped a stream of consciousness so if I stand corrected I will admit it. This article just really was a poor way to address it. He had some great info and points but coming off like a arrogant know it all really screws up his points. This should be a team, not a star athlete trying to be the guy running the show. Do you know who the guy running the show is, do you know who the star athlete is? Me and all the other consumers of beer out there, they run the show. Work together to make it better for me(the consumer) and it will be better for all levels of the 3-tier system. When you understand that you will win.

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