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Great Divide Pulls Out of DC, Five Other Regions

(Banner courtesy of Great Divide)

Great Divide Brewing in Denver, Colorado, makers of Titan IPA, Yeti Imperial Stout, and Belgica Belgian IPA, among many others, has announced that it will pull out of markets in the DC, Rhode Island, Michigan, Delaware, Connecticut, and southern and central Virginia. The move comes due to “exponentially increasing orders.”

Little surprise that Great Divide has had to pull out of our market, given that they hit 60% growth last year. In the DC area, they did not enjoy wide play on tap lines. The Yeti imperial stout was a mainstay at a few bars, and the Hercules Double IPA, Titan IPA, and Wild Raspberry Ale all made occasional appearances, but for the most part, this was a brand fighting for shelf space in an increasingly competitive craft beer store market.

DCBeer contacted Dave Coleman, beer director at the Big Hunt and co-founder of the soon-to-begin-production 3 Stars Brewing, to hear his thoughts about Great Divide’s pulling out. Regulars at the Big Hunt know that Great Divide’s Yeti, in one or another of its myriad forms, is commonly found on tap. We were lucky to get a lot of insights not just about Great Divide, but also craft beer distribution in general:

It is a shame when a brewery must pull back from a market due to an inability to satisfy the demand for product. As consumers, people feel as though they have received the short end of the stick and are being denied access to something that they once had the opportunity to consume at will. This often leads to feelings of anger, resentment, and, sometimes, hate.

While this all seems reasonable, there are some things that most civilians don’t understand that require examination in these circumstances.

First of all, breweries are businesses, and that is an important distinction to make. While we would like to believe that they are just our friends, sent down from heaven to make us happy and provide us with happy juice, this simply is not the case. And as a business, you have to make decisions that are correct for your business.  Now, these are often hard decisions. As I know from conversations with people at Great Divide, they didn’t WANT to be in a position where they pulled out of DC, but there were too many factors that lead them to that being the best decision for [the brewery].

Additionally, as a brewery, you are limited by factors such as capacity, storage, and distribution models, which directly impact your capability to build inventory and satisfy demand. Contrary to civilian thought, you can’t simply “just brew more” in order to satisfy demand. Expansion is pretty much the only answer in many cases, and that is often a very costly endeavor that many breweries simply cannot afford.

In the end, consumers need to develop a better understanding of brewery business and restrictions surrounding production and distribution. Breweries in turn should do more market research to understand demand and the ability/inability to satisfy it moving forward.

Regardless, it is a shame when a brewery blesses us with its delicious offerings (Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, I miss you already), and then realizes that it can no longer support the demand of that market and still satisfy the people at home. As consumers, we should be thankful for the access we get. While there are many products that are not available in our market, thanks to a lot of hard work, the portfolios we do have access to are about 10 times better than they were 5 years ago.

People need to understand a brewery’s need to conduct itself in a way that makes it sustainable over the years, and not take it as a personal attack when they must withdraw from a market. Trust me, at no point does a brewery say, “let’s not send any more beer to such and such market, those people aren’t important anyway.” It is a calculated decision based on crunching numbers and reaching a conclusion that makes the most sense for the business moving forward.

I am hopeful that we will see Great Divide in DC again in the not too distant future. In the meantime, we just gotta get our friends to smuggle it in across state lines.

Thanks to Dave for those insights. Hopefully we’ll see Great Divide back in DC once their production is increased and they’re ready to push for a more assertive presence when next we see them. For now, stock up on all of your Yetis, oak, espresso, cotton candy, et al. It may be a while before you see them again.

What do you think about this news? Which Great Divide will you miss the most? Leave it for us in the comments!

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