A new alternative craft beer and cider distributor called Running Man is launching in Portland with the goal of filling the niche market for small and up-and-coming local brands, as well as a few specialty ones looking to spread their wings out of state. Portland is really only home to a handful of beer distributors, so depending on what you’re looking for, your options may be limited or completely unavailable. Running Man is launching with a small but very interesting portfolio of new-ish brands that will be fighting for taphandles and cooler space.
Located in the heart of the brewery district in Southeast Portland, Running Man will service the Portland metro area including Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, and Hood River counties. The new distributor is the brainchild of Rob Merollis and Phil Birnbaum, who together have over 35 years of experience in beverage distribution. You may know Rob Merollis as the Portland-based sales manager for Virtue Cider, and before that Goose Island Territory Manager for Chicago, Michigan, and Indiana. He has also worked as General Sales Manager of West Side Beer (Grand Rapids, MI), an Anheuser-Busch distributor that focused on craft and imports.
The Running Man name echoes Merollis’s love of running long distance races. “Brand building is similar to planning for a marathon or longer race. It takes a detailed plan, careful execution, and it’s a lot of work.” Merollis added, “The name just seemed very authentic to what we were doing, and who we are. It’s about the great brands, and the long road ahead.”
As with any potential brewery or cidery, clients must decide which distributor to go with very carefully–these agreements are not easily broken, often to the detriment of the producer. On the flip side, the distributor must also be interested in carrying the client’s products. I asked Rob Merollis why anyone would choose Running Man when there are five+ other more established distributors in town.
“What we also bring is a craft-beer and cider culture throughout our entire organization. Each employee at Running Man spends quality time in each brewery or cidery with our partners, getting their stories first hand, so we can eloquently discuss it in the trade. Additionally, we also know that our industry is customer-service driven, and we plan to measure our customer service levels with our retailers often, so we can seriously strive to be #1 in service.”
Due to ongoing negotiations, not all of Running Man’s brewery and cidery clients can yet be revealed, but having seen a nearly full list, I can say the lineup comprises what I would call the new school of local brewers and cideries that are just getting started. Most of these guys are just getting started and we have not yet seen what they are capable of, which makes for an exciting and risky proposition for Running Man. The four confirmed brands that Running Man can announce are:
• Alpenfire Cider (Port Townsend, WA)
• Astoria Brewing (Astoria, OR)
• Bull Run Cider (Forest Grove, OR)
• Mazama Brewing (Corvallis, OR)
Alpenfire has some great and exciting ciders and I am looking forward to seeing more of its products about town. Astoria Brewing is the original Astoria brewery and we used to see its beers show up in Portland more often. Over a year ago the brewery announced right here on The New School that it was expanding and going to can its beers, and apparently that expansion is just now about to start up. Bull Run Cider is another popular Oregon cidermaker that is already fairly established. Mazama Brewing is a newer brewery from Corvallis, and I cannot say I have had much from it to be excited about except for the Peach Sunrise, which was a seasonal. A couple of the other TBA brands are also really interesting and worth some excitement.
Mark says, “There is a genuine market need for an exemplary alternative craft distributor. We will focus on local Northwest brewers, and on a few stand-out brewers from around the country, seeding distribution and educating consumers on our products, while offering enthusiastic customer service to retailers every day.”
To help kick things off, Running Man Distributing will be hosting a tap takeover of all of its brands at Bailey’s Taproom on July 19th, where you can meet the brewers, owners, and employees from the breweries, cideries, and the distributor. Bailey’s Taproom will release the final draft list in the next couple of weeks as each brewer looks through his or her secret stash to offer some special beers at the event.
For more information, please contact Rob Merollis at Rob@RunningManPDX.com, or drop us a line at Www.facebook.com/runningmanpdx and @RunningManPDX on Twitter.