Very quietly, New Belgium Brewing Co. is testing out a new business model, shipping beers direct to the consumer, provided the consumer lives in Washington, DC; Vermont; or Nevada. As far as we know, it’s the first direct-to-consumer beer available in the DC market; why let wineries have all the fun? Moreover, these are beers that are not seeing regular distribution. To wit:
For Foeder Frambozen, we acidified a single foeder of base beer, then refermented it on 800 lbs of raspberries for 3 more months, finishing it with single-source cocoa husks from Nuance Chocolate in Fort Collins and a bundle of fresh mint. Bottled in December 2018, it has been maturing in our temperature-controlled cellar since then.
We made [Dominga: Goddess of Brunch] in honor of our great friends at Foeder Crafters of America. After spending a Sunday with them drinking mimosas in St. Louis, we found ourselves heading home with a brand new foeder. The first release from that foeder is this mimosa-inspired sour ale that packs a big orange and peach punch with the perfect snap of sourness. Reminds us of that sunny Sunday in St. Louis.
We teamed up with one of our longtime friends at Nyborg Wine Co to make Colorway, a zin sour ale, from the last harvest of his family’s organic red Zinfandel grapes. Inspired by natural wines, the finished beer is 49% wine and 51% beer. It’s red wine-forward, perfectly sour, complex, and has that nice tannin dry-ness.
There’s also a Guava Sour, Felix (a sour golden ale) aged in apple brandy barrels, and Oscar (a dark sour ale) aged in blackberry whiskey barrels.
The beers arrive in this nifty returnable and reusable cooler from Otter Box, which holds four 750mL bottles, and FedEx will pick up the cooler once you’ve opened it.
We chatted with Andrew Emerton, Specialty Brand Manager at New Belgium Brewing Co., about the pilot project, and his answers are illuminating regarding distribution and on-premise consumption. He knows better than most that beer is a business, as New Belgium will be acquired by international conglomerate Kirin Holdings.
DC Beer: So, why DC? Is it in part because of the District’s alcoholic regulatory environment?
Andrew Emerton: Yup! That plus DC has historically been a great market for us, especially with our Specialty portfolio. Plus, our distributor was willing to allow us to test this new approach.
DCB: Why these beers?
AE: To be honest, these beers are increasingly a hassle for our distributors due to their VERY low volume and new item frequency. Plus, single serve bottles have really slowed at retail but continue to crush in our taproom. They were our most recent small batch sours only offered in our taprooms. We held back about 5 – 10 cases of each to launch this program. Didn’t want to offer beers that are already available in your market.
It’s a clever move by New Belgium; shelf space at retailers is at a premium, and local distributors would rather not deal with an additional stock keeping unit (a unique identifier for a type of beer made by a brewery, or SKU) for such a small amount of beer. Selling direct in small amounts won’t upset distribution partners and puts beer directly into the hands of the knowledgeable consumer.
Also of note, more states are coming, the beer prices include shipping, and sell for about what they cost at New Belgium’s tap rooms. You can order the bottles in increments of four. Got more questions on the program? New Belgium has you covered.