Here at Able Ebenezer, we not only design, produce and pour our ales, we also drive our own sales and distribution to our many partnered establishments across the Merrimack River Valley. In the past few weeks, we surpassed 30 restaurants, bars, country clubs, etc in which our brands are on tap, and currently have a many more slated on-deck.
Today, self-distributing breweries are rare in the industry. Many states still outlaw the practice, requiring brewers to sell to third-party distributors (thank you, NH). Beyond that, running your own distribution is nearly an entire business entity itself, adding complex logistics, inventory control, invoicing, vehicle and personnel requirements. It is a lot of work, especially with 30+ establishments to serve.
Yet, hard work has its rewards.
We are able to directly establish and build relationships with the owners, managers and staffs at each of our restaurants. Often, we dine with them, or they drink with us. We host the many staffs here at the brewery; privately opening the facility to educate them on our processes, products and story. We collaborate on projects and events, and find ways to mutually grow our businesses together.
This model also allows us to be flexible, adjusting to the needs of our customer. We strive to execute deliveries on-demand, and within 24-hours at the latest. I myself have delivered a keg of Burn the Ships to Murphy’s at 11pm on a Saturday night; the pre-concert crowd kicked the previous keg, and they wanted it back on tap for the post-concert crowd. We recognize and respect that empty draft lines equates to lost revenue for the restaurateur (who, after all, is our customer).
Yes, as a brewery, we sell beer. But as a distributor, we sell convenience.
Furthermore, cold room space is expensive. Therefore, we tell our restaurants to consider our cold room as an extension of theirs. Within that space, we maintain an inventory solely for the restaurants; many kegs being spoken for as they come off the kegging line. To measure this, we track the consumption trends at each of our establishments. While it isn’t an exact science, it allows us to predict what we anticipate brand consumption will be 14 days out, and plan our production rhythm accordingly. We will even take beer off tap in our Ale Room if the only kegs remaining are considered spoken for by one of our restaurants.
I tell each restaurant that we will not allow growth to hinder their access to our product; and we maintain that as a company principle. New restaurants are not brought on unless our inventory can handle the business. At this time, we believe we can add a handful more, but the remainder will need to be waitlisted. With that, we are currently executing our 3rd increase in keg capacity, and are doubling our cold room space to continue bringing on local establishments.
Finally, the beer benefits from self-distribution as well. Our ales are kegged at 32-degrees F, and stored here at the facility at 40-degrees F. When delivering, those kegs are taken out of our cold room and placed directly into the cold rooms at our restaurants, meaning our beer never endures temperature variance or unnecessary rough handling. The benefit: added freshness, consistency and quality to every one of your pours.
So yes, it is a lot of work. But, I believe the work is paying off. If you’re out on the road and see one of our delivery vehicles, you’ll now know that we’re out bringing the Able experience to one of your favorite local restaurants. Give us a friendly wave, and we’ll return the favor. Cheers.
Co-Owner | Engineer | Brewer (...and driver)