GoodLife, Monkless sign contracts with Brew Pipeline

Two Bend breweries will sell their beer for a limited time in new markets through a business that handles logistics from dock to store.

Monkless Belgian Ales and GoodLife Brewing Co. are among the first breweries to sign on with Brew Pipeline as guest brewers. Brew Pipeline, started by Steven Kwapil, Trip Kloser and Marty Ochs, operates a nationwide distribution system, but just launched the guest brewer program in April.

Brew Pipeline and its network of distributors presell beer in packages or kegs to stores, bars or restaurants. Brewers contract with Brew Pipeline for a limited time. Then the brewer is free to sign on with a permanent distributor, said Ochs, who is the company president in charge of sales. Brew Pipeline has signed up 38 guest brewers and has another 70 interested.

It’s a rollout without the risks, Ochs said.

Brew Pipeline, which works in offices in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Maryland, Wisconsin and Portland, charges a fee to brewers. The downside for the brewer is that only one or two brands get exposure, Ochs said.

“Both of these brewers have awards,” Ochs said. “We take brands like this with accolades and recognition and extend their reach beyond their current distribution footprint.

“Everyone wants something new, but they want a beer they recognize, or they want a new beer, but not for long.”

Brew Pipeline is interested in breweries that have been recognized by organizations such as World Beer CupGreat American Beer Festival and the U.S. Beer Championships.

It’s a good deal for GoodLife, which produces about 20,000 barrels a year, said Ty Barnett, GoodLife co-founder. The agreement puts two GoodLife beers — Sweet As Pacific Ale and Descender IPA — in nine new markets in six states starting this month. In July, GoodLife will be in 22 new markets.

“We’re not big enough to launch into 25 states,” Barnett said. “It’s good exposure for us and gets us into markets that we maybe wouldn’t be able to sell beer in.

“This is a different distribution model. It’s something that’s not been done before.”

The farther from home, the harder it is for small and regional breweries to enter new markets, said Bart Watson, Brewers Association chief economist.

“Although flavor is the No. 1 attribute that craft (beer) lovers are looking for, they also prioritize variety and local, which makes it a challenge for brewers to enter and grow outside of their home markets,” Watson said in an email. “That difficulty is only increasing as new brewers continue to come online and as distributors are becoming more and more selective about which brands they add to their portfolio.”

It’s especially difficult when you’re making 1,200 barrels of beer a year and just starting out, said Robin Clement, who owns Monkless with her husband, Todd Clement. The guest brewer program enables the small and regional breweries to explore new markets, test them out and see if consumers want their product. Monkless is offering two pallets of Trinity and Capitulation.

“For us it’s a great opportunity to feed markets that we want to expand and grow into,” Clement said. “And if we want to continue we can create a distribution partnership. We get the opportunity to weigh which markets we want to move into.”

There are 7,450 craft brewers in the United States, according to the Brewer’s Association, a trade association.

Monkless is mostly self-distributed, Todd Clement said. Brew Pipeline will sell two of their beers in California and later Pennsylvania.

“Brew Pipeline is solving a number of problems for small award-winning brewers by helping them get brand recognition and find distribution partners.”