3 Things I’ve Learned about the Beer Biz

Long time no see fellow beer and food lovers! As you may remember, just over a year ago I made the decision to change my life’s course. I quit my stable, “adult” career and became a beer rep for Cavalier Distributing – a company dedicated to the sale of delicious, craft beer.

(What exactly IS a beer rep you ask? Don’t worry I’ll be diving into that in a future post… )

Before this crazy life decision of mine, I thought I knew a lot about the beer business. It wasn’t until I worked in the belly of the thirsty beer beast that I realized how much I truly didn’t know. The past year has been an education, that is for sure.

I thought you might like a glimpse into my world. Here are three things that I’ve learned about the beer business:

#1. Beer is people.

Rule #1 of beer sales: Never underestimate the power of shooting the sh*t.

Beer is People

It sounds cheesy, but nothing sells beer like a few laughs over a sample of the newest offering. Even the most beer savvy person may be a terrible rep if they can’t make a connection with those responsible for buying beer AND those who sell it to customers. Often times these aren’t the same people. It’s important to talk to your bartenders, make friends with the people stocking the beer, chat up the customers.

The bottom line is, getting to know your buyers and the people at your establishments who are consuming a product is critical! Not all beer sells itself. Which takes us to my next point. . .

#2. Great beers don’t always sell well.

You would think that beer awesomeness would equate to $$$$. But unfortunately, such is not always the case. It’s sad but true; some  award winning, absolutely delicious beers end up as ‘shelf turds.’

There are many reasons this fact is true. Perhaps that particular beer isn’t a sexy style. Certain styles of beer, no matter how delicious, just aren’t big movers. I appreciate the heck out of saisons, but there are few in our giant catalogue that make big waves in the market.

Allagash Saison

Even if a beer is great, perhaps the brewery is little known, and thus has small distribution. As it turns out, brand recognition really does play a critical role in beer sales success.

Further, even if the brewery does have brand recognition, maybe people are bored or need to be reminded about a beer’s awesomeness. Stone Ruination 2.0 is a great example of just such an issue.

Conversely…

#3. Bad beers can sell like hot cakes.

Of course, “bad beer” is somewhat subjective {{CoughBudLight LimeCough}}.  BUT! Believe me when I say that many off flavored, poorly constructed beers sell like crazy. These are the beers where the brewery reputation, fancy packaging, mass marketing and sexy style, i.e. IPA, over ride the beer itself.

As an example, I recently did a taste comparison between an absolutely delicious, traditional Belgian style witbier versus our popular, crafty friend Blue Moon. There was absolutely zero contest in terms of flavor – the traditional craft version blew Blue Moon out of the water. More like Bland Moon.

Of course there are many other things I’ve discovered about the biz, like, did you know “pay to play” is still a thing? I didn’t… and it sucks. I’m glad to say though that Cavalier takes no part in that but, oy! Battling against it is the worst. I could write a whole book so I’ll leave it at that!

Do you have questions about what it’s like to work in the beer business? As always, fire away in the comments!

2 thoughts on “3 Things I’ve Learned about the Beer Biz”

  1. Good read and sad but true people often choose brand loyalty over good product!
    Questions:
    How as a beer rep do you aid in getting a good unknown beer to move or be sold?
    Do you find your products have a fighting chance when pay to play shows up?

    1. Good questions! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      For the first, there are a few ways to get a beer on peoples’s radar: getting the bartenders to fall in love with it and recommend it, tying it into an event where it gets attention, signage (table tents, posters etc.), and selling to the right accounts, i.e. places where the clientele are willing to try new beers and the bartenders are willing to recommend them.

      For the second, it really depends. When you have products that everyone wants, then pay to play goes out the window except in those places where a free keg/sports tickets/free glassware rules all. And those places do exist. It boggles my mind that businesses are willing to put up with what is usually a slower moving product for free stuff. I find that if you develop a great relationship with a buyer and earn their trust, it goes a lot further than a hand out. That is where we have a fighting chance, but it means constant vigilance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *