Last April, three craft beer industry veterans launched the Guest Brewer program of Brew Pipeline, a network that assigns different brands of beer to distributors across the country. What exactly does this mean for Bellingham? Even more award-winning beers hitting the market.
The Guest Brewer program finds award-winning breweries and helps them reach markets they wouldn’t otherwise be able to serve due to legal barriers like distributor contracts, state regulations, or transportation protocols.
In most states, breweries can’t distribute their own beer. Instead, they have to sell to a distributor, which then sells to a retailer, which then sells to consumers. The history behind this complicated system—known as the three-tier system of alcohol distribution—runs deep. Post-prohibition, the government wanted to keep brewers from serving directly to the public. Before this, companies like Miller and Budweiser could have bars exclusively sell their products.
Sound Beverage, a Bellingham distributor, got involved in the program last June by ordering award-winning brews from the Minneapolis-based brewery, Surly. The limited, one-time release won’t have a huge effect on local competitors’ day-to-day business. In fact, because it’s a regional craft brewery as opposed to a major company, it may even encourage Bellinghamsters to drink more local craft brews.
As for our favorite Bellingham brewers, if they don’t have the capacity to extend their reach—good for them! Selling locally is great. But if they do, and if their beer has won awards, the Guest Brewer program can open up a pipeline to sell in major cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York.
After decades of experience in the beer industry, the founders of the Guest Brewer program identified a need and filled it. The greatest part? Better beer for everyone.
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