What’s just as important as making good craft beer? Making sure it’s available to as many people as possible.
The three-tier system was established after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and not much has changed. An organization called Liberation Distribution (LibDib) is offering what it calls the first three-tier compliant web-based platform. LibDib creates an opportunity where makers and buyers can work directly together, thus giving restaurants, bars and retailers access to a larger variety of boutique craft libations.
Launched on March 22, the San Jose based company has over 250 accounts in California so far, and have moved onto New York.
I spoke with Cheryl Murphy, LibDib’s founder and CEO:
What prompted you to start LibDib?
It’s really crazy, just all of the industry consolidation that’s happening across all three, ya know, wine, beer and spirits; on the distributor side, that’s kind of what got me into doing what I’m doing here. I spent 20 years in the wine business; managing wholesalers…could never get their share of mind. And understandably so, they, especially when consolidation happens, they gotta’ pay attention to where their money is coming from and my winery was not big enough to really matter.
So, every year I would make numbers or a distributor of mine would go out of business or they’d get acquired and then we would be at the bottom of the wrung at a giant distributor. It was like pulling teeth and I kind of had a little too much to drink one night when I was with my dad, who was my boss at the time. I was working at our family’s winery.
And I said, ‘ya know, I cannot – you can’t do this based on the industry’s conditions. How can we be successful?’
When you take control of your own destiny, as a sales person, as a brand, is when you can be successful. But the problem is when you have a distributor, in between is beholden to larger companies, you can often, even though go out and get your own places and get your own sales, sometimes the distributor is beholden to other people so it’s not going to be top of mind to keep those placements or take those orders.
My whole goal is how can we facilitate legal three tier sales, I want to make sure that’s really important, we are part of the three tier system…But how can we enable small breweries, wineries, distilleries to do business with other small businesses, grocery stores, bars, restaurants, where there’s thousands and thousands of them, without a giant company in-between.
The way my model works is that we built a two-sided web platform for the maker, what we call our supplier, where they can go in, put all their materials online, sales materials, POS, videos, social media links, everything about their brand…then they can buy right then and there.
As a distributor, we collect the money. We pay the maker. We pay the taxes. We do all the things we have to do as a distributor. We take half the margin. So, that’s anywhere from 15-20% of whatever product you’re talking about. And the maker is responsible for delivery.
It’s been really interesting so far. A couple of the breweries that we have, they were self-distribution. But now we’ve kind of brought them back into the three-tier system because we’re taking care of a lot of the things that they don’t want to do.
They want to go out and sell their brand. They want to make their beer. But they don’t want to collect. And they don’t want to invoice. And they don’t want to do all the things that are just a pain to do. So, we’re trying to make it easier for those guys, and we’re making it easier for the account side, cause the accounts like to carry small production craft products. But they don’t want to write 100 checks every month….
Small craft products don’t necessarily fit with the distribution, the current model of distributors. They’re not going to make enough money on your brand, so why would they care?
In working with us, you can have that direct fulfillment, but then still have the backend of the distributor with one invoice and one check.
So, in essence, they are saving money and able to get into more locations easier without having to do the self-distribution work.
Exactly. A lot of breweries want to fulfill because they want to have that complete control, over the temperature, over everything. But they don’t necessarily want to do all the other stuff that the distributor does.
How many craft breweries are on your system?
Well so far, there’s some compliant stuff, so it takes longer, but so far we have two breweries that are local around here. We have one from Alaska coming on…
What’s your biggest group so far? Would it be restaurants, or bars, or retailers?
So far, it’s bars and bottle shops. We’re working on a couple big deals. There’s a stadium that’s interested in working with us and having us get 15 or 20 taps, just totally unique, small craft beer stuff…
Have distribution companies taken notice yet?
Yes! I was very nervous about the wine and spirits folks, if they not be happy about this. But for the most part, they’ve been pretty accepting. They recognize that with this consolidation, that they need – their bread and butter is their bigger suppliers. And some of these folks, some of these little guys take away their time and effort from where they really make their money, so they like the idea maybe I can be like a incubator model for them…so far so good…the way that I’m starting to see trends happening on the spirits side too, and I think it will come with wine eventually, out of all of these giant companies, that they’re buying craft breweries. They know they need that to keep their market share. It’s going to happen in spirits too…
How do you think you’ll ultimately affect the big beer buyouts?
There’s so many small companies that need help with their distribution. I’m going after what I call the long tail of the industry. The people that couldn’t get distribution, even if they wanted it…if you want to pick up and leave, you can go, pick up and leave.
This is a totally different vertical, but do you consider yourself to be in any way similar to AirBnB?
In terms of posting your things once, and having people from all over the world, and having hundreds of thousands of people be able to see it, yes. It’s definitely like the AirBNB of alcohol distribution. It’s funny, VC’s around here will tell us, don’t tell us you’re the Airbnb of anything. But it gives people an idea. You can go in, you post your product, buyers from our legal market can see it and purchase it legally.
Shotgun cover photo: @thebeerhiker
Rhythm, Wine & Brews Experience returns for 2016 with an amazing line up of bands, wine and brews.
Live music, California craft beer and wine will create a backdrop in Indio at the scenic Empire Polo Club. This year, 311, Matisyahu, Dream Club, Insecure Alex, The Bellrays, and Long Duk Dong are joining 21 wineries and 48 breweries in Indio for the 5th annual Rhythm Wine & Brews Festival.
Kevin Olsen runs Adam’s Bottle Boutique in Redondo Beach and is the RWB beer curator.
“This year, we have more unique selection of breweries, some a little less mainstream, so some smaller breweries – more artisanal and craft driven. Last year, we definitely took a step in that direction.
Belching Beaver came out this year. Strand Brewing, Ritual Brewing which is a little closer - a local Inland Empire brewery. Those are new additions this year…Bells is coming out to the California distribution scene.”
And lucky for us, Alpine is getting their toes wet in Riverside County for the first time.
Find out more about the breweries that will be rockin’ this year’s Rhythm Wine & Brews.
- 10 Barrel Brewing: Darling favorite in Oregon and multiple Great American Beer Festival Winner medal winner. They have brewpubs in Boise, Portland and Bend. 10 Barrel’s main working brewery is also located in Bend.
- Anchor Brewing Company: This brewery is dripping with history. Anchor began during the California Gold Rush. Anchor Brewing were the first to produce steam beer, effervescent beer now labeled California common beer. Anchor is the only steam brewing company still in operation.
- Ace Cider: Did you know cider is fantastic to cook with? Use Ace cider in place of champagne to lighten up your dishes. Try Ace Apple with your next pork dish!
- Ballast Point: This San Diego brewery is a homebrewers fairytale come true. Founder Jack White opened Home Brew Mart in 1992, after wanting more quality and unique brewing ingredients as a homebrewer. Ballast Point opened their “back room” brewery behind the shop in 1996. They are now brewers of the deliciously famous Grapefruit Sculpin. And in November, the UCLA students, turned brewery owners sold to Constellation Brands for $1 billion.
- Sierra Nevada: Ken Grossman, the Godfather of craft, opened a homebrew supply store in Chico in 1976. He purchased whole cone hops from Yakima hop brokers directly and began brewing his now infamous hop-forward beers. He launched Sierra Nevada Brewing three years later.
- Green Flash Brewing: Green Flash opened Cellar 3 last year, a new tasting room and specialty brewing facility in Poway. The facility focuses on innovation through barrel-aging and wild yeast experimentation. When not sipping something sour, try their Soul Style American IPA. Citra, Simcoe and Cascade hops are layered, giving it tropical and sherbert flavors. It’s a perfect warm weather beer.
- Breckenridge Brewery: Colorado’s third craft brewery began at the hands of a ski bum homebrewer in 1990. Today, you can find their beers in 32 states. And in true outdoorsy form, the brewery put nitro in cans late last year. What’s better than craft in a can and a nitro tap? Yep, Breckenridge’s new line of nitrogen-carbonated canned beer. Their Nitro Series in four-packs started with Nitro Vanilla Porter and Nitro Lucky U IPA.
- Three Weavers Brewing Company: The female-run brewery is Los Angeles’ second successfully funded brewery Kickstarter campaign. Brewmaster, Alexandra Nowell was the former lead brewer at Drakes and won two GABF bronze medals for her Session beer and German-Style Kolsch while brewmaster at Kinetic Brewing Company in Lancaster.
- Goose Island Brewing: Goose Island's brands are sold in 24 states and parts of Europe thanks to the Anheuser-Busch InBev deal in 2011. While craft beer geeks across the country cried in their beers over the deal, their Bourbon County Stout has remained world class.
- Coachella Valley Brewing Company: CVB, as we locals like to call them, answers the call for a bigger selection of sophisticated and modern beers here in the valley. Head brewmaster and part owner, Chris Anderson, is also a graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage Culinary program. Using unique fruits and spices, Anderson brews using local ingredients. CVB started a sour program in 2015 and their Profligate Society features sours like the Cabernet barrel aged Epineux Poire prickly pear wild ale.
- New Belgium Brewing: This is one of the coolest breweries on the planet. The New Belgium folks not only advocate for beer, they advocate for the planet. They are so sustainable; they became a Certified B Corporation in 2013. Tour de Fat is New Belgium’s traveling party of all thinks bicycle. In every Tour de Fat city, one awesome role model will step on stage to trade in his or her car keys and pledge to live car free for one year. Oh, and the brewery is now 100% employee owned.
- Black Market Brewing: Black Market launched the craft movement in Temecula’s wine country. They recently brewed a Rum Matured Deception with Pineapple on cask. The “normal” Deception is a coconut lime blonde ale. Black Market releases a new beer on Cask Night every Monday.
- Founders Brewery: If you haven’t fallen in love with Founders, you don’t have a heart. This brewery is ranked in the top breweries in the world by Ratebeer.com for the last five years. If you haven’t tried their Breakfast Stout, you haven’t lived.
- Speakeasy Ales and Lager: Speakeasy hales from San Francisco. Last year, a new 60 barrel brewhouse, malt handling system, fermenters, centrifuge and canning line were installed. Production capacity increased to 90,000 barrels per year.
- Bootleggers Brewery: Orange County craft beer darlings, Bootleggers was established in 2008 by husband and wife Aaron and Patricia Barkenhagen. They brew the popular Mint Chocolate Porter, perfect to sip during the holidays.
- Firestone Walker Brewing Co.: I can’t say enough good things about Firestone. And neither could GABF last year. Firestone took a silver for their Feral One in the Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale category. They also brought home two bronzes for their Hammersmith IPA in the English-Style India Pale Ale category and their Sour Opal in the Wood and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer categories. Then, Firestone was awarded golds for their Pivo in the German-Style Pilsener and their DBA in the Ordinary or Special Bitter categories. So, it only made sense that they were awarded the Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year award.
- Bell’s Brewery: Bell’s was founded by Larry Bell as a home brewing supply shop in 1983. They ranked eighth in total volume of all domestic craft brewers in the U.S. for 2010.
- Barley Forge Brewery: They were recently awarded “Best Brewery” in the OC Weekly in 2015. Barley Forge specializes in Belgian, West Coast and German-style beers.
- Brew Rebellion: This brewery is true to its name. Brew Rebellion brews beer in quantities of 30 to 50 gallons at a time. That means an awesome rotating tap list and more specialty beers.
- Coedo Brewery: Japan: Coeda beers are named after five classic Japanese hues. Coeda honors traditions. The brewers allow the first sip of beer to fall to the ground, from the tanks, as a tribute to the brewmasters who came before them. They’ve won awards in the World Beer Cup, European Beer Star and International Taste & Quality Institute. Their mission? Beer beautiful.
- Einstock Brewing: is located just 60 miles south of the Arctic circle in the fishing port of Akureyri, Iceland. All Einstök beers are 100% vegan, with no GMOs.
- Clown Shoes: Funny name, great beer. The craft beer industry is a fun bunch and produces amazing beer, all while being a little crazy. One example is their American Black Ale dubbed “Lubrication.” The label features a robot at a gas station holding a pump handle in his groin vicinity. Fun tidbit: the artist is a woman. And the Clown Shoes story isn’t your typical one. This brand came as a result of a liquor store loving beer so much that the owner decided to brew a line of their own. Clown Shoes contract brews through Mercury Brewing Company in Massachusetts.
- Hangar 24 Craft Brewery: At the end of a dusty road, with the San Bernardino Mountains serving as a backdrop; Hangar 24 is named after the hangar where owner Ben Cook—a licensed pilot—and his friends would relax after a day of flying. Fun fact: Hangar 24’s main brew house came by way of Las Vegas’ Monte Carlo Casino.
- Pizza Port Brewing: Pizza Port serves delicious craft beer in Solana Beach, Carlsbad, San Clemente and Ocean Beach. Each of Pizza Port’s four San Diego County brewpubs won at least one GABF medal last year. The original Solana Beach location won Great American Beer Festival “Small Brewpub of the Year” in 2003. In 2009, they won nine medals at GABF and the Carlsbad location was named “Large Brewpub of the Year.” Simply, Pizza Port rocks.
- Mission Brewery: Mission Brewery was originally established in 1913. See Acoustic Ales below. Like most breweries of the time, they went out of business during the first year of Prohibition. The revived Mission Brewery is now in the East Village in downtown San Diego in the historic Wonder Bread Building. As I always say, beer is food.
- King Harbor Brewing Company: was the first production brewery in Redondo Beach. Last June they opened the Waterfront Tasting Room, joining Los Angeles craft beer bar icon, Naja’s Place, on the International Boardwalk.
- Belching Beaver Brewing: This is a dog friendly brewery in North Park, San Diego. Their Beavers Milk, Milk Stout took a gold medal at the World Beer Championships in 2014 and 2015. Their Dammed! Double IPA also took a gold at the World Beer Championships in 2014.
- Strand Brewing: Torrance’s first production brewery has grown so much since 2009, it moved to Old Torrance last October. Now, Strand Brewing, Monkish Brewing, The Dudes Brewing and Smog City Brewing are all within walking or a short Uber ride distance from each other. Cool.
- Deschutes Brewing: Deschutes is awesome and it’s family owned and operated. They even set up an employee stock ownership program in 2013 so employees can own a percentage of the company. If you try anything from Deschutes, try The Abyss. It’s a world class, 12% ABV imperial stout.
- Alpine Brewing: You probably already know Green Flash and Alpine merged in 2014. Green Flash is about 20 times larger than Alpine. Apine’s IPA popularity couldn’t meet the demand. Now they can.
- Angel City Brewing: Angel City has a special place in my heart. When I first started writing about beer in 2008, I met Michael Bowe, the founder of Angel City. He’s since sold it and is sailing around the world. But it continues to thrive in downtown Los Angeles, bringing old-world craft brewing to the new expanding Arts District.
- Ironfire Brewing Company: John Maino and Greg Webb met at Ballast Point in San Diego and decided to start their own brewery in Temecula. Ironfire was born in 2012.
- Barrelhouse Brewing Co.: BarrelHouse not only has fantastic beers (& sours!), but beautiful views from their inviting Central Coast patio. They just announced their 2016 Curly Wolf. This Maple Vanilla Bourbon Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout has been a crowd favorite in Paso.
- Rock Brothers Brewing: Music and beer are this brewery’s mantra. Creating custom brews for bands is their focus. And no surprise, they (along with Nebraska Brewing Company and Cigar City Brewing) made 311’s Amber Ale beer possible.
- La Quinta Brewing They opened their doors in the fall of 2013 in the Coachella Valley. And after much success and popularity, they recently opened a brewpub in Old Town La Quinta.
- Elysian Brewing: Elysian was founded in Seattle in 1995. Try their Avatar Jasmine IP brewed with died jasmine flowers.
- Golden Road Brewing: All of their beers are delivered in cans. Canned beers stay fresher longer without light oxidation and they are better for the environment. Anheuser-Busch Inbev acquired Los Angeles’ largest craft brewer last September.
- Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse: The Rancho Mirage BBQ restaurant and brewhouse was founded by the Marie Callender’s founder, Don Callender. Don had a passion for craft beer and opened two small breweries in 1998 and 1999. Babe’s later opened in April of 2002. In 2014, their Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale took a gold at the Great America Beer Festival.
- Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment: Acoustic started brewing in 2012. But the building that houses their brew has over 100 years of American brewing history. The original facility housed Mission Brewery, which operated before Prohibition.
- Karl Strauss Brewing Company: Strauss was former vice president of production and reached Master Brewer at Pabst Brewing Company. He, Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner started the first-ever brew pub in San Diego in 1989. It was the first brewery of any type to operate in San Diego since 1953.
- Lagunitas Brewing Company: The brewery that brews in Northern California and Chicago sold a 50% stake to Heineken last September in an effort to expand the brand globally.
- Reverand Nat’s Hard Cider Rev Nat West started making cider in his basement and in the spirit of craft beer geeks, grew it to a business that now distributes in five states.
- Ritual Brewing Company: Redlands brewery founded by Owen Williams and Steve Dunkerken. Williams is the former Brewing Operations Director of BJ’s Brewhouse and Restaurants and teaches Beer & Culture at California Polytechnic University in Pomona. Dunkerken is a Redlands native and long time homebrewer.
Want an extra hour of unlimited tastings from these amazing craft breweries? You’ll want to check out the Friday night Bottle Share & Kick-off Party. Held on March 4th, the Bottle Share event is open to Rhythm, Wine & Brews Experience VIP ticket holders, Sponsors and Press. Make sure you brink one or two 22oz of awesome craft beer to share.
So, what about the headliner? 311’s name originates from the police code for indecent exposure in Omaha, Nebraska, after the original guitarist for the band was arrested for streaking. As of 2011, 311 has sold over 8.5 million records in the US. Never has running around naked in Nebraska proved this profitable. While 311 has called L.A. home for years, the band is orginally from Omaha. With collaboration from the band members and a local brew partner, Rock Brothers partners with fellow Florida brewery, Cigar City on all its bands beers. It's no wonder award winning Nebraska Brewing Company was chosen as the local brew partner to brew the 311 Amber Ale.
“Choosing bands from a variety of genres makes our event appeal to a broad audience,“ said Alex Haagen, IV, producer of the Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience. “Reggae always draws a big, happy crowd. We added rock, a dash of blues and some funk and think we have an impressive show that everyone will enjoy.” He added, “We’ve woven together live music, craft beer and wine tasting, a variety of amazing food offerings, colorful art installations, circus performers and an incredible venue to create a real ‘experience.’ Come on out and have a great time!”
More and more restaurants and bars are offering amazing craft beers in the Coachella Valley—and now there’s a new, responsible way to sample these tasty brews in Palm Springs.
Introducing the Buzz Crawl.
Set amongst palm trees, hotel pools and golf courses in a throwback atmosphere, Palm Springs remains a major cultural hub with its modern architecture, noteworthy chefs and poolside cocktails.
Previously known for its decadent weekend retreats, Palm Springs was a destination for the truly hip. Frank Sinatra often hoisted his Jack Daniels flag on the flag pole in his luxurious Movie Colony neighborhood, which went up like a smoke signal to Frank’s cohorts that it was cocktail hour.