Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Diary of Our Own Jimmy Bracken: No beer houses in sight, but we remain dauntless.

New Albany probably wouldn't considered the ideal "craft" beer market, although proximity to Louisville certainly figures into any such reckoning.

On Sunday, May 25, we sold 17 kegs of NABC beer at Boomtown, and probably 4 or 5 more at Bank Street Brewhouse. The Grand went through 9 during the Houndmouth show. That's somewhere around 30 kegs in a day, albeit a quite special day.

The thing that struck me about Boomtown is this: In the main, it was not a "beer geek" kind of crowd. They were there for the music, and maybe for the Flea Off market stalls. They had a choice; our compatriots at Irish Exit were selling Lite and Pabst. And yet we did very well indeed.

Midweek, with Boomtown in the rear view mirror until next year, I learned that a second Greater Kentucky wholesale beer distributor was not interested in our products. I don't contest the reasoning, i.e., they have a full and cluttered "book" comprised of numerous beers from numerous breweries, many of them located hundreds of miles away. Left unspoken (though patently obvious) is the point that after all, this is what the consumer base wants.

One of the consumer bases, at least.

In short, it's the consumer base NOT represented at Boomtown, where there were few self-identified beer geeks to be found, and yet the better beer flowed freely.

To reiterate, I don't contest the wholesaler's reasoning. I merely point to a disconnect, one that I've no clue how to remedy. In Indiana, we can self-distribute. In Kentucky, we are obliged to use an intermediary, of which there are relatively few, numerically, and this is is frustrating but fine -- for so long as one of them agrees to partner with us.

When they don't, it's just plain frustrating.

The most bizarre part of all this is geographical. We cannot get beer to Lexington, Kentucky, because we can't find a wholesaler. But wholesalers in Texas, Missouri and Massachusetts have expressed interest. When you'd like to be local/regional but cannot, owing to the leaden weight of the three-tier distribution system, then do you shrug and join the parade by shipping far, far away?

I posted the following on Facebook, and for the record, repeat it here. I can't say there are answers these days, only questions. The bizarre part of all this is that

Several of you have asked; here's the answer: NABC would love to be selling beer in Kentucky outside Jefferson County, but we can't seem to find a wholesaler. The first one died. We divorced the second one. Recent matchmaking has been rebuffed. I'm considering a Kickstarter bid to relocate NABC a couple thousand miles away, thus making us sexy and fashionable for local markets here; but of course that's impractical. In the end, all we have is great beer. I'm quite happy with that. Thanks to those of you who both get it, and GET it.

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