Brew Pipeline’s Guest Brewer program is bringing out-of-market beers new to Milwaukee on a limited basis.
Commitment can be scary.
I’m not talking about dating other humans, which is certainly terrifying. I’m referring to the commitment a brewery has to give to a distributor to get its beer sold in any given market. Rigid long-term contracts can be frightening to an upstart (or established) brewery looking to make inroads around the country.
Brew Pipeline has a way around that. Its Guest Brewer program is essentially the speed dating of the beer world.
Here’s how it works: As a master distributor, Brew Pipeline purchases fresh new kegs, cans and bottles from breweries whose beer is not available in Milwaukee (or the 40 other major markets they serve in the United States) on a temporary contract. It sends those to sub-distributors around the country. Those sub-distributors then get the beer out to bars and liquor stores. The beers are only available in these new markets for a month, which should help create demand.
“We saw that the old method, where a brewer signs a lifetime agreement with a distributor, worked great when there were a couple hundred breweries in the country and 7,000 distributors,” says Steve Kwapil, a co-founder of Beer Pipeline who lives in Pewaukee. “The tables have turned and now there are over 7,000 breweries and a couple thousand distributors. The distributors just can’t handle that volume.”
The Guest Brewer program began in Milwaukee in June when beers from Heavy Seas Beer in Baltimore and Portland’s Ecliptic Brewing hit store shelves at places like Ray’s Wine & Spirits and Discount Liquor, and the tap lines at beer bars like Draft & Vessel, Burnhearts and Sugar Maple (look for the Guest Brewer tap handles).
The program continues in July with the appearance of Sweet As! Pacific Ale and Descender IPA from Goodlife Brewing (Bend, Oregon), and Thai Style White IPA and Rocky Mountain Kölsch from Upslope Brewing Company (Boulder, Colorado).