|Photo by John Foyston/The Oregonian|
Hopworks, or HUB, is a brand everyone in Oregon is familiar with. Founded on a brewpub model, the brewery has also successfully pursued the bottle market and found success. HUB's biggest challenge, though, may be in the forthcoming release of its beer in cans at the end of the month. Not only now will HUB now have 3 shelf spaces in most grocery stores for its 22oz bombers, but the brewery will be looking for more space to fill with tallboy 16oz cans of the same beers. Will stores embrace having the Hopworks IPA in stock in both bottles and cans, or cut one of them? For this challenge, as well as those of growing its distribution range, HUB has jump the distribution ship, moving from its current agreement with Point Blank Distributing to the much bigger Columbia Distribution. This is surprising at first, considering HUB's long-running relationship with the local startup distributor that could--Point Blank, which holds many other craft brewing darlings like Upright Brewing and Double Mountain Brewery. When you think about it, though, it was just a matter of time, and the release of cans is a critical jump. A bigger, more influential distributor with much longer reach like Columbia can help make HUB's big push happen. That is just my two cents, anyway, as we wait for an official statement from the brand and distributor on the shakeup.
|Hopworks owner Christian Ettinger|
My Predictions for 2013:
A huge craft brewery shakeout separating the really successful distribution-based breweries from the successful brewpub model. Those who fall in the middle ground will have a hard time surviving.
Brewpubs like Burnside Brewing and Breakside Brewery will secure distribution agreements with packaging with larger distributors, while brewpubs without the support or distribution agreements, such as Coalition Brewing and Amnesia Brewing, will struggle.
One to Watch: Gigantic Brewing
For someone who wandered into its modest tasting room in a hard-to-find warehouse in the middle of a neighborhood with no foot traffic, one would think that Gigantic would have a hard time succeeding in this new landscape. Clearly, though, Owners/Brewers Van Havig and Ben Love have thought about the distribution model long and hard, and their business will be based on 22oz bottle sales. Instead of using the popular keep-it-local approach, Gigantic has been signing distribution agreements before it even opened in multiple states across the country, and even in Vancouver, BC. With draft sales it could be a huge problem to distribute because the cost of kegs (cooperage) and getting those shells back, but with almost all distribution outside of Oregon in bottles, those concerns are moot. Gigantic's challenge will be keeping the shelf space for those bottles in the face of new and hot brands popping up every day. Things are just starting to get interesting, and for craft brewers, with success comes problems.