Customers who visit select craft breweries in the Sacramento region with “guest taps” — as in, beers from another brewery — will be offered two limited treats beginning this week as part of a new beer import program.
The precious pours being offered — Furious IPA from Surly Brewing Company in Minneapolis, Minn., Peppercorn Imperial Wit from Monkless Belgian Ales in Bend, Ore. and Dumaine Dupage French Country Ale from Two Brothers Artisan Brewing in Chicago — will be available for 30 days or until the taps run dry.
Partners Marty Ochs, Trip Kloser and Steven Kwapil developed this Guest Brewer distribution concept for their startup Brew Pipeline, headquartered in Pewaukee, Wis. Instead of craft beer enthusiasts driving a long distance to drink a favorite brew, it’s brought to the customer. The company finds high-rated, award-winning craft beers from around the U.S. and partners with local breweries and distributors to serve these beers for a limited time. It’s a win-win for both consumers and brewers.
“We’re really excited to be working with Brew Pipeline and its Guest Brewer program,” says Jason Ebel, co-founder of Two Brothers Artisan Brewing in Chicago, whose beer will be featured in Sacramento-area breweries. “It gives us exposure to a whole new base of craft beer lovers in markets we don’t currently serve across the U.S.”
Northern California is one of about a dozen regions in the country to launch the program. Distributors Musetter in Auburn and Delta Pacific in Manteca, and retail locations such as Drake’s Barn in West Sacramento and others locations still in negotiation, will offer guest beers. Drake’s Brewing Co., based in San Leandro, will begin distributing its popular Denogginizer Double IPA as a guest beer to other regions this month.
“Brew Pipeline’s Guest Brewer program allows us to reach new and existing fans of Drake’s beer around the country,” says Brian Stechschulte, director of marketing at Drake’s. “We receive constant inquiries over email and social media about shipping beer out of California. Some of these people want a taste of their hometowns.”
Ochs, who helped establish Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons, Colo., and Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, Ore., began to collaborate with his friends last September to develop the guest brewer concept. Kloser and Kwapil are also long-time craft beer industry experts.
“I visited with 70 brewers I knew and distributors to get feedback,” Ochs says. “We wanted to know: Do we have something that brewers would want to participate in and do they trust us to do something like this?’ The response was overwhelmingly positive.”
The 90-day process of getting orders and filling them began in April for delivery this month. Monkless, established in 2004, was voted the brewer and brand of the year in 2018 by the Beverage Trade Network. Surly has been among the country’s most highly touted craft breweries for several years. It’s increasingly popular beers include Furious IPA and Axe-Man IPA.
“There are buyers there in Sacramento and maybe they’re from Minnesota originally,” Ochs says. “They are going to be fanatical about Surly and their fans will probably promote and there will probably be a line for Surly.”
Guest Brewer handles all logistics from the brewers’ dock to market. Breweries can test trial new markets, commitment-free. There’s a 15-day delivery window, ensuring freshness.
“Sacramento has become a great craft market,” says Ochs. “It was definitely a little dry 10 years ago, but now it’s one of the best markets. That’s one reason we want to be there.”
The Guest Brewer program’s strategy is reminiscent of the rage created more than 15 years ago when Pliny The Younger (triple IPA) and Pliny The Elder (double IPA, named after the Roman magistrate and his uncle) debuted. Pliny The Younger debuted in 2005 at Russian River Brewing Company in limited release and remains so with a two-week window each February. It attracts worldwide visitors who sometimes wait eight hours in line and then have a limit of three pints during a three-hour visit. “We are definitely scaling up the Russian River concept,” Ochs says. “That’s exactly what this is.”
Breweries say the clubs are a good way to compete in the expanding marketplace because they encourage repeat customers. Customers have the option to pay a flat rate for a stainless steel canteen and a predetermined number of refills.
There is probably no stronger indication of the strength and maturity of the Sacramento beer scene than the fact that so many breweries, both local and out-of-town, have opened or plan to open second or third locations in the area.