After a small craft brewer secures all permits and produces its first brew, the company is free to face the same roadblocks a small winery faces: myriad and confusing state regulations as well as distributor apathy. Restrictions and lack of distribution often limit craft
brew availability ‘# to within a local radius, within the home state or, for the lucky, sales in bordering states.
This is where Brew Pipeline (BP) comes in. CEO and Founder, Steve Kwapil, says BP was established, “to help craft brewers extend the reach of their brands.”
BP works with craft brewers and distributors from across the country to deliver a variety of beer brands that may be new to consumers, with a goal to reach 100 markets within 16 months.
This is being done through BP’s newly released Guest Brewer program, a method Kwapil says helps breweries, “get their beer to the people,” while it gives distributors an incentive to work with small craft brewers.
Kwapil and his crew have behind them decades of experience in the sales and distribution of craft brews. His thirty years in the business alone connected him with many brewers, importers, and suppliers. From those contacts, he had organized one of the first independent, statewide craft alliances in the U.S. Kwapil and his business partner, Trip Kloser, homed in on two opportunities for their new business: brewers needed comprehensive market access across the U.S. and
distributors needed a way to control Stock Keeping Units (SKU) with a multitude of select brew brand rotations.
BP’s federal wholesale permit allows the company to act as a master distributor, assigning sub-distribution for product delivery. The company handles state-to-state registrations and compliance for brewers, organizes freight from brewers’ docks, and coopers beer in kegs for brewers in the program. From its contacts, BP gives small craft brewers important access to chain buy-in across multiple states.
Distributors that work with BP gain a unique opportunity to provide to retailers and bars, in Kwapil’s words, “world-class brands from around the country for limited time offers.” Distributors go to high-end craft accounts, to offer the guest brews to their bar and retail customers. While BP provides sales and marketing materials, it’s standard industry practice that distributor’s execute pre-sale and delivery of product, as well as the invoicing. It’s also the distributor’s job (as well as the chain buyer’s) to handle all local legalities. BP, however, handles individual state registration and ensures compliance , with each state’s regulations.
Products in the Guest Brewer program are sold at bars, restaurants, retail, liquor stores, and chain locations for 30-60 day stints at a time. Pre-sell into the first rotation of the program takes place through March-April 2019, with a :May target for brews to hit the market in the following states: Nevada, California (Northern), Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Arkansas, Massachusetts and Florida.
Participating breweries for the initial program launch include: Ecliptic, Surly, Melvin, UpSlope, Monkless, Oso’s, Two Brothers, Heavy Seas, Goodlife, Double Mountain, Drakes, Fair State, Pryes and Long Drop Cider. One or two beer/brands from each brewery will be selected based on the distribution focus and the capacity for the brewer to supply it.
Kwapil says, ” Brew Pipeline is a new and unique path to market “and we are ready to make a big change to the industry.”
The company has fiye additional states in line for the second 3-month Guest Brewer rotation (June-Aug). The goal is to reach 25 states by the end of 2019.
Forbes 2019 – Thomas Pellechia, Contributor