Behind the Scenes of New Hampshire’s Beer Industry

You love beer. And hey, what’s not to love? By all accounts, the beer industry is experiencing a true renaissance in the U.S. The numbers don’t lie: in the 1980s, there were just 44 breweries in the U.S.; according to the Brewers Association there are over 4,000 today.

With new breweries opening almost daily, the varieties and taste profiles available to us are nearly mind-boggling. You can drink an ice cold lager on a hot day, pair a robust IPA with a fine meal…and do just about everything in between. There’s a beer out there for every occasion.

Now you may think the beer industry is pretty cool, and you’re right. You may also think to be a part of it you need to be a brewer, or work for a brewer. That’s where you’d be wrong. Enter the three tier system, an arrangement dating back to the days of prohibition that’s little known (or cared about) outside the beer industry. The tiers refer to the breweries who manufacture the beer (tier one), the distributors who wholesale the beer (tier two), and the retailers (stores and bars/restaurants) that sell the beer to you (tier three).retailtasting1

This system has worked very well for almost 100 years and has been instrumental in giving you, the consumer, the amazing variety of brews you have today. So let’s talk about the middle tier: the independent distributors who are the vital link between you and the breweries you love.

Distributors in New Hampshire are family run, independent wholesalers that operate on behalf of brewers. And they don’t just deliver beer. Their employees work regularly with brewers on quality assessment, taste training, commercial management and market research. They also attend brewer events such as annual sales meetings, trade conferences, field meetings and trainings, and stay up to speed on consumer trends and sales at the local, national and global level.

Many of the distributors’ craft beer managers are Cicerone certified so they can talk beer with brewers and understand the science behind the beer as well. In short, they share a brewer’s passion for beer and have an expert-level understanding of the commercial end of the business.

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So, given the scope of their work, you’ve probably figured out that New Hampshire’s beer distributors employ a large number of Granite Staters. There are over 1,000 beer distributor employees in our state and the vast majority call towns in New Hampshire home. Turnover at beer distributors is extremely low, with many employees celebrating decades with the same family business.

New Hampshire’s distributors also support and sponsor signature New Hampshire events like the Black Ice Hockey Tournament. Distributors and their employees regularly pitch in to help build a new park or revamp a children’s ball field, raise money for food banks, volunteer their time at youth groups like the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, and support many local charities and non-profits.

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These proud men and women are passionate about beer and dedicated to growing the business just like their partners in the other two tiers. They just happen to be out of the spotlight for consumers, working tirelessly on the backside of that sudsy curtain.

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