The three-tier system is something that’s continuously up for debate in our country, surfing on arguments about who it serves poorly and who it services well, who it protects us from and who it favors. It’s a complicated value chain mandated by the federal government to exist, but also regulated by states, and increasingly getting sliced up into more unique and critical ways of bringing your favorite breweries to market.
One part of that value chain that’s been quietly evolving is the role of the importer. They work between the brewer and distributor, and traditionally bring you beers from oversees from places like Belgium, the UK, and Germany. You may have heard our interviews from Shelton Fest two years ago when we interviewed two of their operators to demystify this part of the business, and shine a light on the value that importers bring even when they’re working with domestic instead of foreign breweries. For its part, Shelton Brothers just announced their next festival will be in Atlanta on August 18-19.
Then there's the domestic side of the import business, sometimes even called a domestic importer. It's really a convoluted way of describing an importer who moves products domestically through their existing infrastructure, state-to-state instead of country-to-county.
As more and more small local breweries are finding ways to grow sustainably and gain access to market when the shelves are tight and tap handles are scarce, the role of the domestic importer is helping some of these niche breweries find niche audiences wherever they might be.
Today’s guests are excited to talk about a very unique scenario in this vein. Artisanal Imports, known for importing brands like Sunner Kolsch, St Feuillen, and De Proef, are now partnering with U.S. brands. They’ve been working in U.S. cider for some time now with Farnhum Hill and EZ Orchards, which are among the best in the world. But niche, hyperlocal breweries is a new step towards diversifying their business and finding new territory to explore. In Chicago, they’ve partnered with Dovetail and Whiner Beer, two newcomers with unique portfolios.
Today we’re going to hear about what’s behind that move, and why it might be a new model for small brands going forward. It’s a full room on this one, so I do my best to keep it all straight. We’ve got Hagen Dost and Bill Wesselink from Dovetail Brewery, Brian Taylor of Whiner Beer Company, and Lanny Hoff of Artisanal Imports. Listen in.