Self Distributing Beer

Maybe you always planned to sell your own beer, or maybe you started making craft beer just for yourself, relatives and friends and your craft has grown.  Either way you’re at a point in your beer making career that you want to bottle and sell at a higher level.  When looking to get greater distribution for your brewery there are a few options.  One is self distributing beer to retailers and restaurants to have more control over your brand and to keep a greater percentage of the profits.


self distributing beer bottles


About Beer Distribution

For starters, you need to understand the three-tier distribution system. Most states implemented this system after Prohibition, requiring beer manufacturers to sell to wholesale distributors who sell the beer to retailers. About 75 percent of states, however, allow for self-distribution, which means that the manufacturer sells directly to the restaurants and stores. The laws in every state differ, and some of them limit how much a brewery self-distributes. This is why it’s important to know these restrictions and other requirements for the state in which your brewery operates.

Distributing Your Own Beer

Self distributing beer gives you more control over your product than if you partner with a distributor.  Beer distributors generally distribute for many breweries and may not prioritize your beer when making sales to potential retail outlets.  Self distributing beer also cuts out the middle-man allowing you to keep more money per keg, bottle, or can.

On the other hand, self-distribution requires a lot of resources and is time-consuming. It requires focus from your staff, a larger initial investment and additional equipment. It’s for these reasons why some craft brewers only self-distribute for a few years to gain product placement and recognition before partnering with a distributor.


Men self distributing beer kegs


How to Start Self Distributing Beer

You must be prepared as a salesperson when you begin self distributing beer, especially since the market is so saturated. The first thing to remember is that your local market is the most important and easiest market to gain good product placement and recognition. However, not everyone will like your beer as much as your friends and family, so you need to be prepared for some rejection. You should also note taste and branding suggestions for potential future tweaks of your product offering.

When you meet with retailers and restaurants to give them your sales pitch, leave room in your budget for samples. This can help you get placements on shelves or in coolers. If you have the money, make labels for your sample bottles that include the most important information such as size, keg price, alcohol content and contact details.

After landing a deal, you’re likely to receive placements in rotations. The more that your beer sells, the more often it will appear in the store. Keep track of your sales, and prepare for higher demand as sales increase. If you don’t have beer available for customers, you could lose that placement.

Increasing Your Exposure

Selling your beer in local stores and restaurants isn’t the only way to gain product recognition. You could make yourself available for beer festivals and brewer’s nights in your area. For these events, take some point-of-sale marketing displays and merchandise with you, including pint glasses, hats, stickers and shirts. These items can spread brand awareness for your brewery.



Angela is always adding to her collection of countertop concoctions and basement brews. From beer to kombucha...if you can make it at home she's probably tried it.

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