Left Coast Distribution in 2017
In the last few months we have started firing out the odd newsletter. Andy will keep on informing you about the beers we stock and the breweries we are working with and I will weigh in with more a business angle from time to time. We are well into our fourth year of sourcing small independent brewers from the west coast of the States and shipping containers full of beer halfway around the world and persuading retailers to buy these our wares. And as we enter even more challenging times I thought it be a good time to reflect and inform you as to our plans. We are not the only business involved in this new renaissance of the beer industry (or “Craft Beer” as it has been cursed) that has felt the urge to “explain itself”. The game has changed so much
We started our import business from a very simple place four years ago. I was opening a bar in Nottingham called Boilermaker, I had a mate in San Francisco and I wanted to stock some of those amazing beers we shared a love for in my bar. Hoping that our beer range would then look a little cooler than the other bars who were stocking the likes of Brooklyn, Sierra, Anchor and Sam Adams. So Left Coast was formed and the process began. In that time we opened two more bars to help sell and promote this new beer renaissance called “Craft”. To ship beer from the US we had to set up a proper bona fide company, one registered in the States (Delaware oddly enough) and one in the UK. A bit of a diversion at first, but we thought why not? We got a few willing brewers on board and persuaded them that although they wouldn’t make a million dollars out of this it would be pretty awesome thing to do. When in the States I used that word a lot, everyone that we met in the American craft brewing scene all seemed to use it. I still think what we do is pretty awesome. It’s not lucrative, which I guess would make it more awesome, but the journey we are on is still pretty awesome.
Over the last four years we have seen a huge rise in the number of consumers of Craft Beer but this has been exceeded by the sheer volume of new (and amazing) craft beers from the UK and the rest of the world and created a very over-crowded market place. Every year we have had to work smarter, harder and shave our margins down to compete, But the stand out factor that has made everything so much harder was Brexit and the huge drop in the value of the pound compared to the dollar. When we started you could buy $1.60 worth of shipping and beer for a pound, now all you get is $1.20’s worth, and that’s a huge difference. And so sadly for the first time in four years we are announcing that from the 15th Feb we will be increasing our list prices. We were so against Brexit for all the right reasons and also selfishly we knew the pound would nosedive. With the same degree of trepidation as our US brewers who we work with, we await to see the full impact of the Trump regime. Nothing is predictable, and who knows where these so called improved trade deals will come from, but I doubt it will affect the small independents such as us.
Things have changed hugely in these last four years; we are at the Wild West frontier of the beer market. The monoliths of the brewing industry who put up with the resurgence of microbreweries in the 90s feel a lot more challenged by the energy and dynamism of this new wave of “Craft” brewers and retailers. Like the lofty King Kong on the Empire State, laughing and swatting at the pathetic biplanes, they mock the bullets but fear the fall. They do what they can and know; imitate and replicate, acquire and legislate.
More craft breweries will be acquired in the next few years, Tuatara were acquired just this week by DB Breweries . There are too many dynamic forward thinking people now working in this industry; designers, creatives, technicians, sales and marketing execs. The breweries are strongly focussed on developing their brand that any modern business must do to succeed and survive. But as you do, these brands become very clear packages and as such are far more attractive to the acquiring breweries. If only these big boys got their own products in order and stopped acquiring successful brands we, the customer, would no longer have to deliberate the morality of drinking a Goose Island, a Camden or Meantime beer.
Rest assured we are still committed to what we do, we have met some awesome people on our travels and we love the fact that people half way around the world still enjoy brewing beer for the UK drinker. We will continue to only supply beers from growing independents that still put passion ahead of profit. This journey is just beginning. There have been so many dynamic bottle shops that have appeared throughout British towns. Having replaced the Wine Racks, Oddbins and Threshers, which were squeezed out by the undercutting supermarkets. These pro-active, passionate, hard-working enthusiasts are busy developing their own fan bases and social groups, offering a service that a shelf stacker in Aisle 5 will never be able to champion. And every bar or pub or restaurant that has opened in the last three years has all to some degree considered and supplied a craft beer offering. How genuine that commitment is can very quickly be spotted and commented on by the consumer, but it is encouraging that what we now describe as “faux craft” is still a million miles better than what we accepted as the norm four years ago. Oh, to drink a Lagunitas IPA at Lords or at Wembley Stadium in 2017.
For more information as to our prices and to speak to us here about all things Left Coast Distribution feel free to drop us an email or reach out through social media, or even pop down to Junkyard in Nottingham and have a beer with us.