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The 3 Beer Distribution Channels for Your Micro-Brewery


There’s a lot to consider when you are a micro-brewery, whether you are just starting out or whether you have an established operation. We are living in a very competitive environment these days and just making great beer is often not enough. True success has many facets to it and will be explored over future blog posts.

One of the keys to creating a successful brewing operation is to focus on a distribution strategy that defines you as a brewer and also allows you to maximize your sales efforts. Building a better mousetrap does not mean consumers will beat a path to your door. Assuming you are making great, consistent beer  and have excellent branding, you still need to consider how you’ll distribute your beer.

Beer Distribution Channels

Where will you be selling your product? There are numerous ways into the beer market and you need to be aware of the requirements for each. Below are the 3 most common beer distribution channels.

1. Retail

80% of all beer is purchased at the retail level. However, going the retail route requires a lot of initial effort.

In many cases, you have to apply for a listing with the retailer. This could be time-consuming and may take as long as nine months to get approval. Once you have approval, now the hard work really begins. 

You should design your sales strategy to focus on the locations that are geographically important to your brewery. You need to ensure good placement in each store, which means hiring a sales force that understands the nuances of retail. Sales calls need to be made and a regular schedule should be kept to create and nuture relationships with retailers.

2. On-Premise

Selling to bars and restaurants seems like the easiest access to the consumer, but again, be prepared to face many hurdles. As with retail, a dedicated sales team is vital. It’s crucial to equip your team with the knowledge necessary to earn the respect of both customer and consumer. This includes product knowledge, draught system knowledge, proper pouring and serving techniques, etc. This channel can be the most competitive, with many small brewers all vying for the same space in ‘craft’-centric bars and restaurants.

3. On-Site

Selling beer to consumers from your brewery may be the most profitable, but bear in mind what kind of environment you will need to create. Do you have a storefront? Is a tasting bar part of your experience? Will you sell draught and packaged beer to consumers? Keep in mind that only 9% of beer nationally is draught.