Good Beer Hunting

New Belgium Will Soon Distribute to All 50 States

New Belgium Brewing announced today that, within the first four months of this year, it plans to expand distribution to Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Oklahoma—the only four states left untapped in its U.S. sales footprint. The nation’s fourth largest craft brewery by volume, New Belgium says it plans to launch each market with a mix of year-round, seasonal, and specialty offerings in all draft, bottled, and canned formats.

New Belgium had once resolved to be in all 50 states by 2018. Now, though, the Fort Collins, Colo.-based company says it’s able to “lock in the national footprint” a year early due to the added production capacity in Asheville, North Carolina, where it opened a massive east coast facility in 2016. That logic, of course, doesn’t require any sort of advanced calculus to work out. But it’s certainly interesting to look back a bit and see how effectively the second facility expedited the process of going national.

As we noted in November, fresh off the company’s announcement that it would activate Massachusetts, former CEO and current chairman of the board Kim Jordan was quoted as saying in 2013, “Over the years, we have been really methodical about opening new territories at a reasonable rate. I think you will see us pick up the pace of opening new markets because there is really is no reason to wait.” 

Indeed, it took the company 24 years to expand to their first 40 states. But since August of 2015 (less than two years ago), it has tapped the remaining 10 (six in 2016, the final four in 2017).

New Belgium has partnered with a suite of Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors wholesale partners in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, having recently activated New England neighbors Rhode Island in June and Massachusetts this past November.

In Oklahoma, meanwhile, its distribution strategy is somewhat mandated by some Prohibition-era regulation: the company has aligned primarily with MillerCoors wholesalers for distribution of a neutered 3.2% ABV iteration of Fat Tire throughout grocery channels, while Oklahoma Beer Imports has been tapped to sell its “full-strength” beer to independent liquor stores. (It’s worth noting that, this past November, Oklahomans voted to allow the sale of stronger beer in grocery stores, though the amended law doesn’t take effect until 2018.)

“We have always taken a very measured approach to growth and that model has served us well,” says Rich Rush, New Belgium’s northeast and Canada sales director, in a press statement. “That said, it’s immensely fulfilling to know that we’ll be a fully national brand with distribution in all 50 states this year.”

—Dave Eisenberg