It can be easy to forget that the winding path a great beer takes from recipe to your pint glass means that many people (some of whom you may never meet) are involved in getting Beer A into your hands. And these many people need to work in concert so that the beer makes it to its rightful destination. I asked Joe Cartlidge from Pacific Libations about the role of the beer broker and I also listened to some of the L.A. craft beer heavyweights talk at a recent L.A. Craft Beer panel focused on the topic of relationships that need to be created and nurtured behind the scenes of your favorite bar and brewery. The synchronicity of comments is amazing as each question I posed to Cartlidge seemed to be seconded by a quote from the panel.
Pacific Libations is a “beer broker,” which is an additional and sometimes forgotten cog in the beer machine. According to Cartlidge, they “represent brands and provide sales assistance to on and off-premise accounts. We also represent our brands at craft beer shows, beer festivals, conventions and trade shows. We are not actually a distributor, but we do work with the distributors to inform people about our brands and assist in generating sales.”
“Try not to be all things to all people. Try to do one thing, own it.”
One of the breweries that they represent is Big Sky Brewing Co from Missoula, Montana. “They produce fantastic beer and have a passion for brewing and life in general (hence the canning line they invested in to service the outdoor lifestyle as well as the environment). Cartlidge continues, I have “gotten to know the head brewer, Matt Long, pretty well. He’s a great guy with a big heart, an exuberance for brewing and is engaged in anything and everything having to do with the outdoors.”
“If you don’t sell me something that’s good, and you believe in, how am I supposed to sell it?”
Pacific Libations is “very busy supporting Big Sky Brewing Co and our 2 importers, Artisanal Imports and SBS Imports. The brands we currently work with are phenomenal, so providing sufficient support is more than a full-time job.”
“Are we doing us a service, or are doing you a service, by taking more on?” Sometimes start-ups have high expectations, and deliver, like Golden Road.”
“The process of hooking up with a brewery involves building relationships. Essentially hooking up with a brewery is like hooking up with a significant other. You meet and think, “Wow, I really like this guy’s beer,” so you tell the brewer his suds kick ass and exchange cards (the introduction). Then there’s the relationship building, where you get to know one another by talking about beer and common interests (dating). After you’ve connected several times and discussed likes and dislikes and How Beer Saved the World, you make a decision as to whether continuing the relationship makes sense (the engagement). Finally, you enter into contract negotiations (the prenuptial agreement) and if terms can be agreed upon, you sign the contract and cross your fingers that all goes according to plan (the wedding).”
“It starts with a relationship. Every relationship takes time…support not just the specialty beers, but also some stuff you might not be as excited about.”
Now you don’t have to know everything about how your beer got to you but it is worth knowing that relationships and the proper care and feeding of them is integral in not only a marriage but the craft beer world as well.
Speaking of great relationships, let’s talk about chocolate and vanilla. Your Beer of the Week is White Chocolate from The Bruery. Here is what the brewery has to say about this new offering. “The primary component of our “White Oak” ale is a 100% barrel aged wheat wine that we affectionately refer to as “White Oak Sap.” Essentially a “summer” barley-wine style ale, but made with a wheat heavy grain base, White Oak Sap is aged in used bourbon barrels for nearly a year and comes out rich in flavors of coconut, honey, caramel and vanilla. To compliment the already rich flavors of the beer, we’ve added cacao nibs and vanilla beans to give this beer the delicate flavor of white chocolate…hence the name.” It will set you back $30 but as you can see from the list of the ingredients and the barrel aging involved that it will be worth it. Whether you age this 14.25% ABV brew or drink it right now. I recently had this at the renovated tap room and it is hype worthy. I like it better than Black Tuesday. It is a alchemic mixture of bourbon, chocolate and vanilla.
Your Homework this week is to volunteer your time. Because volunteering is cool. You can volunteer to help at a home brew competition as a steward. You can volunteer at a festival like the L.A. Beer Week at Union Station or BAM Fest in Santa Monica. You can spend time spreading the word about craft beer to those unfamiliar with our fun world. Or best of all, volunteer your time as the designated driver. Whatever you help out is building a bridge between the consumer and the people bringing us the beer here in L.A.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.
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