(Munster, IN) – Demand grows and a brewery struggles to meet it. The life and times of a leading craft brewery in 2010 . . .
In light of my recent posts around the “Tipping Point,” here is an interesting topic that has taken off over the past few days on Beer Advocate. Three Floyds, named the best brewery in the world by RateBeer, can’t keep up.
Several retailers in Illinois and Indiana are expressing their discontent over not getting the same allocations of Three Floyds beers that they used to and customers are “angry” and “ticked off” according to a couple of the posters in the thread.
A few comments floating out there from retailers. . .
From Indianapolis-based Kahn’s Fine Wines: “This has been a hotbutton issue with me for several weeks. I used to sell 30 to 40 cases of Three Floyds products a week. Now I can sell 8 if I’m lucky. We also helped promote the fact that they were the best brewery in Indiana. i dont do that anymore. I tried several times over the past year to get Lincoln down here to do a tasting but the dozens of phone calls and e-mails were never returned. They cant even return a phone call! This is how they treat one of the best retailers in the state. We are not some ho-hum corner booze store. We are the best store in Indy. World Class Beverage (our distributor) has been super cool and communicative with us during this entire ordeal. It’s pretty crappy of Three Floyds to put them in that spot. I now focus on true Indiana breweries that are aimed on producing high quality beer and keeping my shelves full and mainatianing a positive business relationship. i.e. Sun King, Upland, Bee Creek, Barley Island, Mad Anthony and Oaken Barrel. Expect to continue to pay high prices for Three Floyds until they wake up and ship me what I can sell.”
From Chicago-based Archer Liquors back in July: “Can we stop talking about the 3F drought now that it’s been 3 months of seriously limited quantities? Somebody please post whether or not this stuff can be found anywhere. In this week: no Alpha, no Pride, no Robert, no Dread. One case of Gumball. Cheers. I wonder aloud whether once they get their act together, if anybody will care. You take something away for that long, folks are bound to move on (except me, of course, who can’t let the issue go). I predict that by the time we get as much as we want in a given week, we’ll sell half of what we did a year ago when there wasn’t an issue getting product. Or who knows, maybe they’re geniuses. He’s to hoping we find out someday.”
Three Floyds is growing quickly, evidently too quickly, as demand is far outweighing supply at this point. Sales grew 43% in 2007, 25% in 2008 and 47% in 2009 according to the Brewer’s Association. The growth has catapulted Three Floyds into the top 100 craft breweries in terms of production. Bob Mack of Indiana-based World Class Beverages, a leading distributor for craft brands, notes, “For the future, Three Floyds appears to be on track to produce about 3 times the amount of beer in 2011 than they did in 2009.” The Munster brewer seems to be committed to meeting the demand the best that it can going forward.
That said, one may be compelled to question Three Floyds’ moves over the last couple years. In a separate post from yesterday defending the brewery, Mack throws a softball out there, “Over the past several years demand has continued to increase faster than the brewery can produce beer.” If this is the case, why did the brewery re-enter the Wisconsin market in early 2009? Why did it expand distribution to Kentucky in December? It’s likely that relatively little supply is allocated to these markets but the fact that beer is going to these markets at all doesn’t help matters in Indiana and Illinois. Keeping everyone happy is a balancing act.
Complicating things for the local fanbase, Three Floyds has also been shipping beer over to Japan and Denmark. In Japan, depending on when you visited over the past several months, you may have been able to find Alpha King, Dreadnaught or even Dark Lord (all at the same bar I believe). In Denmark, Olbutikken keeps a list of Three Floyds beers that are in stock with Behemoth and Admiral Lord Nelson currently among those listed. As with Kentucky and Wisconsin, it’s probable that relatively little goes to these markets.
No one said that running the world’s “top brewery” would be easy. It comes with a lot of challenges and great responsibility. As the saying goes, “this too shall pass” for Three Floyds, a world-renowned brewery that will probably not see much long-term damage over the current situation. For the hundreds of breweries opening up for business in 2010 and over the next couple years, however, there is a lesson to be learned here.