Good Beer Hunting

Rhinegeist Brewery Expands Beer Distribution to Massachusetts Following Cider Push

Cincinnati-based Rhinegeist Brewery has announced plans to expand distribution of their beer into Boston and across the entire state of Massachusetts. The move continues a partnership with Massachusetts Beverage Alliance, who has handled distribution of the brewery’s Cidergeist brand across the state for the past seven months.

The move is an interesting one, in that it marks the first cider-lead market expansion for a brewery in the United States. What was a fairly young, offshoot brand, became the entry point for Rhinegeist to break into an increasingly competitive East Coast market.

Additionally, the announcement comes closely on the heels of founders Bob Bonder and Bryant Goulding effectively squashing rumors of a potential acquisition by a brewing conglomerate or private equity firm. The two vowed to remain “locally owned and operated,” and hinted at an employee-owned model in years to come.

Expansion into the Massachusetts market, specifically, is significant to Goulding, who grew up in the New England area. “We've built a strong relationship with MBA across the state with the cider launch,” he stated, “which has been going very well and has given us a seven month timeframe to build out our plan on how we'll launch beer. We've been teasing the market for years, [with a presence at the American Craft Beer Festival since 2013], and actively pulsing draft over the last few months.”

Those sporadic keg releases, combined with a focused, two-SKU cider push, have helped them to seed their brand in the minds of the drinking culture. Goulding added, “There's an awareness and refinement in that culture—there's also a lot of opinions—and it's a market that's going to tell us if we'll sink or swim as we grow further afield.”

This effectively bumps Rhinegeist's cider brands from incremental opportunity to a stand-alone second prong attack in the marketshare game, not unlike Boston Beer's diversification moves over the years. And it was this kind of business that prompted us to warn about the challenge to the craft cider market who might not be allowed to compete on its own terms once small brewers get into the game and start making quick, cheap ciders from commodity juice. 

It will be curious in the coming months to see if the Rhinegeist brand catches hold in the new market, and if the Cidergeist brand continues to increase in volume alongside beer. Even more so, it should prove telling if entry into new states follows the same model.

—Kyle Kastranec

Rhinegeist Brewery expands distribution to Boston and all of Massachusetts [Beerpulse]