Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Starr Hill Brewery Signs Distribution Deal With Anheuser-Busch

According to this article in the Charlottesville Daily Progress, Starr Hill Brewery has inked a distribution deal with Anheuser-Busch Inc. The Crozet-based brewery plans to eventually market its beers in independent and chain stores nationwide. Virginians still reeling from the changes at Dominion Brewery after A-B gained a major share, may wonder what other changes are in store for Starr Hill. There's no mention in the article of anything other than distribution rights, so it appears that this craft brewer will retain its character. However, one could reasonably assume that A-B wouldn't do this without gaining some bit of ownership. More details will surely be coming out soon. An expansion of production facilities is planned to handle the growth in distribution. Brewmaster Mark Thompson is quoted as saying “We want to be the next Sierra Nevada.” With the recent announcement that all of Denver-based Flying Dog's production will be moved to Frederick, MD, the Maryland/Virginia area appears poised to gain an increased presence in beer stores nationwide.

Update: I received this from Mark in reply to my email query:
Thank you for your continued support of Starr Hill. Our plan is to roll out in Fredericksburg in May of next year so hopefully your long wait for Starr Hill will be over. This distribution deal is something that Starr Hill has envisioned since day one. I founded the brewery in September of 1999 with the mission of sharing the gift of great beer with the world and this is another step in fulfilling that mission. The first step of our mission was to design four world class beers. Our four house beers (Amber Ale, Pale Ale, Dark Starr Stout, and Jomo Lager) have won 11 GABF medals and one WBC award. Each of our four beers is a multiple award winner at the GABF and something that I am very proud of. Having determined that Starr Hill could make world class beer, our brewery needed a world class distribution system. No one would argue that AB has the very best distribution system in the world. The reality of my world is that beer sales operate on a Three tiered system and I need distribution to grow the brand. This deal allows me to do what I do best which is to make world class beer and not waste valuable time on looking for a new distributor in every new town that we expand into. I can now focus on making beer instead of trying to assemble a sales system.

Update 2: The Anheuser-Busch press release is here and includes a statement about A-B's role:
“We’re committed to providing new and exceptional beverages to those adult consumers who are looking for specialty products,” said Dave Peacock, vice president, marketing for Anheuser-Busch, Inc. “Starr Hill has already developed a loyal following among craft beer consumers in Virginia, and together with our wholesaler network, we’re looking forward to enhancing the distribution and sales support for these award-winning beers.”

Brewing and marketing decisions will remain the responsibility of Starr Hill and its management.

1 comment:

  1. A Richmond area beer enthusiast has sent me a link that states A-B has also obtained a minority stake in Starr Hill as part of the deal. Not sure what the future holds, but this sure is an interesting development.



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