How To Speak the Arcane Language of Booze
Having lived in a protective bubble for so many decades, booze distributors have developed a language all their own that can be difficult for non-distributors to understand. The language of the beer distributor is particularly challenging. Theirs is an opaque patois born of years of being isolated from the real world.
Recently, a leader of the beer distributor peoples attempted to offer an explanation of the changing world of beer. Unfortunately, his Beerish got in the way of effectively communicating to all those outside the borders of the beer bubble. I’m happy to translate.
“When independent retailers and local beer distributors are united on building brands, delivering consumer choice or advocating before the state legislature, great things happen.”
Translation: You retailers may think your interests are different from distributors, but in reality the only thing that matters is you do as we say
“Beer distributors take immense pride in their ability to help small brewers get established, grow these craft brands and celebrate in their partners’ successes.”
Translation: Well, not ALL small brewers. Just those that that agree “to celebrate their partners’ successes” means “do as we say, give us most of your profit and shut the hell up”.
“But as more and more brewery-owned retailers are established, and as breweries’ direct-to-consumer sales continue to grow, the competitive landscape is being upended. In some states, brewers are aggressively expanding their retail privileges from their brewery location to stand-alone, non-brewery taprooms or tasting rooms. And these modern-day “tied houses” are often exclusive outlets, selling only alcohol products that they own.”
Translation: What the fuck is going on here? Brewers selling their own beer? Shit!!! That doesn’t help us.
“These taprooms are increasingly serving as competitors to licensed, independent retailers.”
Translation: Competition! Ahhhhhhh! No. We were promised no competition.
“So is there anything wrong with this? That is up to policymakers in state capitols.”
Translation: Ha ha ha! Oh, God. Hee hee. Uh huh! Policymak…..Ha Ha. Where’s our wallet???
“But imagine if this rationale were applied by global alcohol giants like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Diageo or Gallo? Competition would slow as these giants grew market power at the expense of brand building beer bars.
Translation: There’s your boogyman. Use him well. Pretend this is a real threat. We’ll have your back with these big boys. They understand the game. Just be sincere when you drag this strawman out of the closet.
“The open system of independent distribution and retail beer sales has been an unparalleled success, providing record choice to U.S. consumers and access to market for all brewers. Is that now all at risk?”
Translation: Always, always answer “yes” to this rhetorical question. And don’t ever, ever remind anyone that the “open system” is actually a closed system…and you’ll be ok. Remember: RISK!!
“The blurring of the lines between who is a brewer and who is a retailer presents both a business and political challenge for beer distributors and independent retailers.”
Translation: Competition=bad. Protection from competition=Good
“The common agreement that the three-tier system is the best path to the consumer is being challenged. Suppliers see money in bypassing the distribution and retailer tier, despite the long-term implications”
Translation: (See above)
“As independent retailers face this issue, they must be bold in telling their story.”
“The stakes are high, and independent retailers need to act to support the open and independent distribution system that serves consumers so well.”
Translation: Don’t fuck with us.
As you can see, it’s a complicated language beer distributors speak. But, with a little effort and an appreciation of the bubble in which this language was developed, you too can decipher the meaning of DistributorSpeak.