(Boulder, CO) – Bristol Brewing penned a newsletter entry today that explains why, despite an upcoming expansion, the company hopes to keep its beer availability limited to Colorado.
At least once a week we’re asked why we don’t ship Laughing Lab or Beehive or Compass IPA to other states. Sometimes it’s just out of curiosity, other times it’s from someone who fell in love with a brew while they lived here and just can’t seem to find a reasonable substitute near their new home. If you fall into the latter category, we want you to know that we sincerely feel your pain, and we’re keeping the cooler light on for you should you return for a visit. But for anyone who’s ever wondered why their favorite hand-crafted Colorado beer is available ONLY in Colorado, here’s where we’re coming from:
We are obviously free to apply for a license to sell into any state we wish. Distribution is regulated on a state to state level and not by the federal government, so there is a little bit of a hurdle in configuring things slightly differently for every state we’d go into. The bigger issues are of quality control and Cost of Goods Sold. Once a pallet of beer leaves our hands, we really have no way of knowing how it’s being treated or stored, whether it’s out of date, whether it is being rotated, etc. We’d need a rep to be there, because, as Mike Bristol has commented, it would feel a little like sending your first grader to boarding school — we’d gnaw our fingernails to the quick worrying about it! Plus, we would hate to give people the wrong impression of our brewery by having sub-standard beer in a distant marketplace.
Further, many breweries find that building a presence in another state starts pretty slowly. Talking to a rep from another Colorado microbrewery a couple of months ago, we asked why they had pulled out of a certain state. It turns out they were only selling one pallet a month into that state. That’s a lot of expense, hassle and carbon for not much beer. Mike’s business plan has been to expand our distribution outward in a pretty tight spiral — 80% of what we brew stays right here in El Paso and Teller counties. We won’t say we’ll never go into another state, but there’s a heck of a lot more beer to sell in Colorado before we got to the point that wide distribution would make much sense.
And don’t forget that 80% of the carbon footprint associated with beer comes in shipping finished product. Water is heavy, glass is heavy, and the fossil fuels, emissions and refrigeration are impactful on the environment. We’d have to make some choices that hit pretty fundamentally at the core of our sustainability mission if we started sending it everywhere. (Not that we’re judging our brewery friends who do — they’ve got some mitigation strategies that help balance the scoresheet.)
We also think it’s important to keep in mind that craft brewing is still a pretty small percentage of the overall beer market. According to the Brewers Association, craft brewing represented 5.68% of the US beer market last year — the first time we’d ever topped 5% as an industry. (W00T!!) We did that by growing 15% (by dollars) as an industry last year, while commodity beers like Coors and Bud were down several points. The lesson is that craft brewing is definitely on the rise. Once people’s palates start to become more sophisticated, it’s hard to go back to fizzy yellow beer. Even if Bristol had the Colorado craft beer market cornered, we could double our sales if we could find a way to convince another 5 out of every 100 beer drinkers to try our stuff instead.
So there you have it. We hope you’ll at least respect our decision, even if you’re crying in your not-Bristol beer because of it. And for the record, we miss your face — come back and see us, and save some room in your suitcase for a six-pack to go!