Specialty Beer Wholesalers Conference in April

The 2nd annual Specialty Beer Wholesalers Conference will once again take place prior to the Craft Brewer’s Conference, being held this year in Philadelphia.

The SBWA is a two-day program of panel discussions on how to improve specialty beer distribution business. Discussions will be primarily aimed toward distributors with annual volumes of 750,000 case-equivalents or less and whose primary beers are specialty brands. The conference will be held April 12-13th at the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott. The CBC follows on April 13-16th at the same location.

Sessions this year will primarily be panel presentation style. A high level of interaction with the panels will be encouraged to foster back-and-forth discussion of ideas, practices, techniques, and other issues related to the specifics of specialty beer distribution. The conference is not considered an appropriate venue for brands to try to gain access to wholesalers, and brewing representatives are discouraged from attending. The agenda also does not include start-up information, but instead focuses on the operations of existing wholesalers.

Last years first conference in San Diego drew over 40 participants ranging from one person operations to larger houses carrying more than 1000 SKU’s and a sales staff of over 20. One thing in common at last year’s conference; an intense passion to not only sell, but also promote good beer. In sharp contrast to the vast majority of today’s beer distributors, the attending wholesalers were keenly knowledgeable and passionate about quality beer, and whose operations are nearly exclusively dependent on specialty beer. The camaraderie and exchange of information, both during the discussions and at the social gatherings last year were highly valuable. This year’s conference registration fee again includes dinner on the first night.

This year’s format has changed to accommodate the expected larger attendance and instead of a roundtable format will be a series of panels, encouraging open dialog among the attendees.

As access to market continues to plague the specialty beer category, the emergence of more small, independent distributors is one of the few hopeful developments in the distribution tier. Many in the group of specialty wholesalers at the conference were craft brewers who self-distribute their brands alongside other craft and specialty brands, often working in conjunction with similar distributors in nearby markets.

For more information go to http://beertown.org/events/cbc/attendee/wholesaler.html. The conference is being assisted by the Brewers Association, but is not part of the BA. Instead, it has been organized by a variety of industry members.