Today we’re going to dig into a part of the beer business that’s hard to crack—distribution. It’s typically very difficult to talk about this part of the three-tier system because it’s full of confusing laws that vary state-to-state, it’s federally mandated and regulated, and probably he most important reason is that no one is incentivized to really discuss it. It’s where a lot of the concentration of wealth happens in the beer industry, and when things get consolidated, there’s rarely progress, innovation, or even basic transparency as to how it all works. It’s a bit of a black box.
But looking at it from the craft brewer’s perspective, it’s a box that needs opening. And in the last decade, a lot of the power dynamic has shifted due to new laws that increase access to market for brewers—things like self-distribution, dock sales, and own-premise taprooms have put producers much more in the roles of distributors and retailers than ever before. As a result, they’re having ideas. They’re getting ambitious about their go-to-market strategies. And they’re starting to get creative.
Today’s guest is a catalyst for that kind of change. Kimberly Clements, a former owner of Golden Eagle distributors in Arizona, and her business partner Daniel Lust, who was a pricing analyst and territory manager at Golden Eagle, are the founding duo behind Pints LLC, a consulting company that helps brewers strategize new markets and distribution. They also work on the distribution side of things, helping align the interests of craft brewers and distributors across the country.
Their insight into this part of the business is amazing.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how distributions really works, and what the challenges really look like, this is the episode for you. As a bonus, we get a really stark look into exactly how distribution networks, even so-called independent distributors, are controlled by AB-InBev’s influence form one generation to the next. It’s an amazingly candid conversation with someone who knows the ins and outs, both historical and contemporary.
And before we begin, a quick shoutout to On Tour brewing for hosting us for this talk. As some of you know, we’re moving to a new studio space just down the street from On Tour, but it’s not ready until next week, so they were really gracious in hosting us so we had a temporary place to record this episode. I certainly didn’t want to miss my chance to talk to these folks. So thanks to On Tour for the hospitality. And fair warning, this is a live brewery taproom environment, so it’s not the quiet studio recording you’re used to. But it’s totally worth the listen. Thanks to Mark and the On Tour crew for helping us out. They’re great neighbors.