Wholesale Beer: Where to Find Suppliers & How to Become One

Nick Mirev
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    According to the stats of the Brewers Association, there are around 10,000 breweries in the US. That’s no surprise as the major beer brands are among the most recognized on the market and there are lots of craft beer enthusiasts who wish to taste new beers. Restaurants can improve customer experience by offering craft beer and food pairings in their normal or seasonal menu. Behind all this is the wholesale beer industry. In this article, we’ll see how businesses can buy wholesale beer as well as how you can become a beer wholesaler. 

    Where to Buy and Sell Wholesale Beer

    Find Beer Distributors

    You can search online for beer distributors. Another alternative is to look for recommendations from colleagues. Beer distributors act as middlemen between breweries and other businesses. They can offer products from local and national breweries. The main reason why companies use the services of intermediaries like distributors is the fact that they work with many breweries and can offer a wide range of different types of craft beer.

    Contact Breweries Directly

    If you wish to skip any intermediaries, you can contact breweries directly. Many of them work directly with customers and can offer various options for wholesale beer. One of the cons of this approach is that you’ll have to contact a lot of companies in order to stock different types of beer in your bar inventory.

    Online Wholesale Marketplaces

    Platforms like BlueCart can help businesses find wholesale beer suppliers. The benefit of using such technology solutions is that you can find a variety of distributors there. You can compare prices, check their products, and find all products for your restaurant’s inventory.

    Attend Exhibitions

    Trade shows are an excellent way for businesses to find new clients. That’s why wholesale beer suppliers attend food and beverage industry expos. An additional benefit of attending exhibitions is that you can check the latest restaurant industry trends.

    Find Local Beer Associations

    Local craft beer guilds can give you contacts of reliable breweries, beer wholesalers, and other businesses in the field of beer. 

    Key takeaway: Selling wholesale beer can be a profitable business. Many companies prefer to buy beer and other beverages from wholesalers as they get better prices and can choose between different brands.
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    Steps to Become a Wholesale Beer Distributor

    Are you planning to start a new wholesale beer business or wish to expand your brewpub by offering wholesale beer options to businesses? In the next paragraphs, you can see more details that will help you become a wholesale beer distributor.

    Research and Plan

    Check out the competition and the needed licenses to become a beer distributor. You should also see what is needed for shipping beer to commercial and retail clients. As a beer wholesaler, your company will act as a middleman between breweries and businesses. Therefore, you need to find both reliable producers of beer and clients to deliver it to. Start with a thorough business plan. 

    Get All Needed Permits

    These can vary a lot depending on the business’s location. During the planning phase, you should inform yourself about the needed licenses for this type of business. It’s recommended to use the services of a business and legal professionals in order to be sure that everything is done according to the law.

    Find Breweries and Beer Producers

    Before you begin searching for clients, you need to find reliable beer producers. As working with wholesalers is a major brewery marketing channel, you shouldn’t have many problems partnering with them. 

    Build Your Client Network

    You should start prospecting for clients even if you’re not fully ready to start your business. The first step you should take is to check the beer menus of local establishments in order to see what their clientele prefers. This will give you an idea of what craft breweries you need to contact and partner with. 

    Pricing and Marketing

    Consider factors like storage, transportation expenses, labor, and profit margins. This will help you set the pricing of the beer products your company offers. You should find the balance between being competitive and maximizing profits

    In terms of marketing, you should focus on brand awareness in the first year of your business. After that, the focus should slightly change towards other channels such as trade shows, industry events, memberships in local associations as well as sponsoring beer and sports events.

    Adapt to the Beer Industry

    The beverage market is constantly changing. That’s why your business should stay in the loop with the latest trends in the beer world. Even though wholesale beer suppliers are strictly B2B businesses, you shouldn’t close the door of B2C. For example, you can start your own brand for beer delivery subscription boxes. Although this type of business has its challenges, it has a much higher profit margin compared to selling bulk beer.

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    What Businesses Buy Wholesale Beer

    A variety of small and large companies can benefit from ordering bulk quantities of beer from wholesalers. Here are some of the main types of businesses that use this business practice:

    • Restaurants, pubs, and bars;
    • Hotels, country clubs, resorts, and other businesses in the hotel industry;
    • Retail stores;
    • Online businesses and retailers;
    • Entertainment venues, catering companies, and other businesses in the event industry;
    • Cruise ships and airlines.

    Pros and Cons of Buying Beer Wholesale

    Advantages of Buying Wholesale Beer

    • Better pricing. That’s one of the biggest advantages of buying in large quantities in general.
    • Availability. Wholesalers work with a lot of breweries and producers. This means they can offer you a constant supply and different options of craft beers.
    • Variety of products. Wholesale suppliers strive to increase the number of producers they work with. Additionally, they aim to work only with top-notch breweries. Ergo, you can count on them to offer products not just of local brewers, but also of beer producers from other parts of the country and the world.
    • Convenience. Yes, eliminating the middleman can result in an even lower price. However, it’s convenient for businesses to partner with wholesalers as they can offer a variety of products, not just beer or beverages.

    Disadvantages of Buying Wholesale Beer

    • Large minimum orders. Wholesale suppliers usually have minimum order requirements. The more established the distributor is, the higher their minimum order requirements are likely to be. This can be challenging for small venues and companies with limited storage.
    • Impact on cash flow. Even though ordering large quantities comes cheaper, paying upfront for them can be problematic for some businesses.
    • Shelf life. Buying wholesale quantities of beer means you should carefully consider the risk of beer expiration. It’s highly recommended to use modern solutions such as BinWise to track inventories of beverages as well as their expiration dates.
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    Other Products Sold by Wholesale Beer Distributors

    Although beer wholesale suppliers mainly trade with draft and bottled beer brands, they often have other product categories in their catalogs. Let’s dive a little deeper into the main types of other products sold by wholesale beer distributors.

    • Malternatives. Although beer is the most popular one, it’s not the only beverage made with malt. Other drinks are often referred to as malternatives. A good example of such a beverage is kvass. It’s popular in Central and Eastern Europe. Smirnoff Ice and other flavored drinks are a popular malternative as well. They often contain even less alcohol than a regular pale ale.
    • Other beverages. Businesses find it convenient to partner with wholesale beer distributors that can also supply other beverages like spirits or soda drinks. Therefore some suppliers aim to expand their assortment.
    • Beer accessories. This category can include products such as glassware or beer openers. Beer brands are among the companies with the highest marketing and advertising budgets in the world. That’s why they will often give suppliers various marketing materials or merchandise like coasters.
    • Draft beer bar equipment. PVC tubes, tap handles, and faucets are all necessary items to pour a cold glass of draft beer. Beer suppliers will often provide services related to the maintenance of the draft beer system or delivery of parts that need replacing.
    • Homebrew supplies. The number of enthusiasts who make their own beer as a hobby has increased significantly in recent years. That’s why some wholesale beer distributors also sell beer brewing supplies and equipment.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Wholesale Beer

    Ready to start your wholesale beer business? The questions and answers below will help you in that regard.

    How to Start a Brewery?

    A lot of people have turned their hobby into a business by starting a brewery. The main things you’ll need are a suitable location, beer brewing equipment, and marketing. Check out our article on how to start a brewery. You should also consider other beer-related businesses such as starting a brewpub, a beer subscription website, or a beer eCommerce website.

    How Big Is the Beer Industry?

    According to data from 2020, the global beer market size was $743 billion. It’s projected to grow to $1 trillion by 2028. This makes it one of the largest industries in the world.

    What Are the Most Popular Beer Types in the US?

    According to consumer data, the most popular types of beer in the US are pale ale, lager, wheat beer, and stout. The pale ale category is very big and includes a variety of subcategories of beers in its family. Some of the most popular ones are India pale ale (IPA), American pale ale (APA), and amber ale.

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