Saturday, 02 February 2013 10:22

Craft Beer Connect

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The three-tiered beer distribution system can be a bit dizzying. Beer distributors act as the middle man between brewers and the liquor and grocery stores that sell the final product. They also provide transportation, refrigerated storage and maintenance, because producers do not sell directly to bars, liquor stores, or grocery stores. Who cares, right? Well, certain craft breweries are only able to distribute their beers to specific regions. After all, craft beer is best served in its local, where it's brewed. But with the advent of monthly beer clubs and specialty beer shops, more of us can get our hands on what we want: more great beer.

Introducing, Craft Beer Connect.

Craft Beer Connect was founded by east coast transplants who found themselves in the beer mecca of Southern California, wanting to share the suds from the land of sun and surf. One of the three partners, Ted Kelly, tells us more about connecting more southern california beer to the crafty consumer.

TBG:  How long has Craft Beer Connect been around?

We launched the site in May but think of June as our real kick off.  Each month we definitely learn and grow more.   We’re looking forward to the next six months and all the many to follow.

TBG:   Who are the brains behind the monthly beer service?

Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone with brains.  Just kidding.  The site is run by myself, my brother P.J. Kelly, and our good friend Bill Bergeron.  We all share a passion for beer and the thought that we can help other beer lovers’ access beers beyond their normal reach.   We’re also backed up by amazing web developers at Breakthrough Design Group and friends happy to help out in exchange for payment in beer.  

TBG:   What did you all do before Craft Beer Connect and what made you want to start this?

We all still work full time jobs at the moment but are getting more ready to have a least one of us take on CBC full time.  I work in Financial Services, PJ is an Aeronautical Engineer, and Bill works in Environmental Sciences.   Well we like these jobs we all realized a few years ago that working in the Craft Beer world was appealing to all of us.  The hard part was figuring out how to make the leap.   It took time to create and then launch our idea of a site that would connect beer lovers and great breweries but we’ve stuck with it because we all deeply believe in it and its potential benefits to the Craft Beer world.

TBG:   So, you currently offer 31 breweries. Looks like they’re all So. Cal based, any plans to expand that list? Will you be focusing on So. Cal?

Heck yeah we plan to expand!   Currently we’re based in So Cal but we see representing all of America as our ultimate goal.  While we feel very lucky to be in San Diego we know there are other great areas that deserve to be represented.  We’re working on plans to expand and are going to work our hardest to do so in 2013.   Stay tuned….

TBG:   Where do you ship? Anywhere you don’t ship?

We ship to most states right now except, Utah, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Alaska, or Hawaii.   We also can’t ship to a P.O Box or Military Base.   While wine has made some serious headway in regards to being able to be shipped, beer is lagging a little.  That said, we think the state laws surrounding beer will eventually catch up.  For now we’re trying to stay legal.  Unfortunately, that means telling some people they can’t get the beers.

TBG:   When someone signs up for a package, do you have a system to make sure they don’t continuously get the same beers?

Because most member s choose their own beers that makes getting them what they want easier.  However, we do have some people that choose our Dealers Choice each month or buy a Gift Pack for a friend.  In both cases we select the beers.  However, we allow for people to type in beers or beer styles they like which helps us select the beers.  For example, a person might buy a pack for a friend that loves darker beers only.  If they note that we’ll make sure to match the package to their taste.  We do also keep note of the beers we pick and refer back to it each month as we’re packing to make sure people receive a variety of beers and not the same ones over and over.

TBG:   How quickly do you get new releases?

Honestly it varies.  Sometimes we’re offered beers before we even know they’re coming out and we can lock in some cases.  Other times we’re out and we try a beer we like but when we contact a distributor or brewery they’re already sold out.   We do try and stay ahead of the curve with our ordering and also listen to request from members.  Most distributors and breweries are happy to try and help us out and if they have it in stock we typically have it in hand in a couple days.  

TBG:   How is Craft Beer Connect different from other monthly beer clubs?

Choice!  You pick what you want and we get it to you.  You’re monthly charge is fixed so you never have to guess how much you’ll be charged.  As a member we charge your card each month on the 22nd which is the same day queues are locked.  Shortly after we get your beers boxed and out to you.  We also allow you send a Membership as a gift for your selected length of time or to send a Package of Beers as a gift.

TBG:   Who are some of your favorite breweries? Why?

We of course love the older breweries and they make up a lot of our go to beers at home.  Ballast Point, not just for the beers but also for the home brew mart where we started exploring brewing.  Green flash is constantly good and also close by us.  You might see us there after a long day of packing boxes.  Of course Stone for their beers and also for their distribution of many great breweries to local stores like us.   Personally I love the artisan brewing of AleSmith.  We all love the Rough Draft tasting room and their beers and have been drinking a lot of Societe and Amplified beers when available.  I don’t think Amplified will bottle but we do plan to carry Societe sometime in 2013.  I know I’m leaving a lot of amazing breweries out and truth be told we don’t have any favorites.  We’re just happy to have so many great choices around us.

TBG:   What tier/plan would you recommend for those seeking those rare, limited edition brews only available in Southern California?

If I had to pick one it would be Tier 3. Tier 3 gives you full run of the site, which means you have access to Tier 1 and Tier 2 beers as well. I would choose it over Tier 4 because, well I love the feel of a 12oz bottle in my hand, it’s often hard to get the limited and harder to get beers in a 12oz size.  Tier 3 is all 22oz and 750ml bottles as well as Tiers 1 and 2.

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