A sought after beer was released for distribution this past week in Michigan causing local craft beer enthusiast to go on a bottle hunt to enjoy and cellar this delicious beer. The beer in question i Founders Brewing Company's Kentucky Breakfast Stout or KBS. Coming in at 12.4% ABV with an IBU of 100 and a RateBeer rating of 100, KBS is sought after for a reason. With a smooth taste and finish the beer is worth the trouble that craft beer enthusiast go to to find at least one bottle.
As always, distribution throughout MI comes the week after Founders kick off week known as KBS week in Grand Rapids. Founders sells tickets for each day, allowing each ticket holder the ability to purchase three 4 packs of KBS. These tickets sell out within seconds of going on sale, almost as fast as the Michigan Brewers Guild's Winter Beer Festival tickets. I almost bought tickets this year, but couldn't justify the 2 1/2 hours one way just for beer.
Now that KBS is starting to hit the shelves down here around Metro Detroit I have a chance of finding at least 1 bottle, more if luck is with me. The reason for this is the way the beer is being distributed. Many of my local bottle shops are only receiving one to two cases the first week, with promises or more the following week.
During my hunt for KBS I got to talking with a local merchant who runs a liquor store with a very good craft beer selection. Like many liquor stores, craft beer is turning into one of there best sellers. The owner was telling me that he only received a case of KBS (24 bottles) and so he was only able to sell them to customers with a 1 bottle limit. With rare beer releases like this, it is regularly acceptable for this type of practice. The reason behind this though, is not the establishment but the distributor. According to the owner of the store, Founders gave something like 60% of the KBS distribution to Kroger Grocery stores.
This strategy makes sense for the brewery but I feel it is alienating its customers by trying to appeal to the non craft beer drinking public. This may come across selfish, but beers like KBS and Goose Island's BCBS are not brewed for the every day public, but for the craft beer enthusiasts that have help grown each of these companies notoriety with beer reviews, Untapped check ins, and general word of mouth.
In December 2014 Founders sold a 30-percent stake to a Spanish brewery group known as Mahou San Miguel group of Madrid, Spain. This group is supposed to help grow Founders distribution, most recently to Spain. This partnership could be the reason why Founders changed their distribution plans this year for KBS.
According to a Mahou San Miguel press release, "The partnership will help Founders grow through Mahou's international distribution network" and " Founders and Mahou are focused on long-term strategic growth". Could distributing KBS using Kroger be apart of the long-term strategic growth plan?
Not only are the bottle stores getting hit hard with this lack of distribution but the beer bars are also feeling the pain. A local Michigan only beer bar told me that the distributor informed them that only bars that carry at least three taps of Founders regularly would receive a keg.
Will this exclusivity of distribution lead to the downfall of the craft beer industry? With limited release to many bottle shops, the owners are left to price gouging, selling to regulars only, and a lottery system to be able to purchase a single bottle.
If you are in search of a bottle of KBS or any other rare craft beer releases you can search the breweries website for distribution as well as follow your favorite bottle shops on social media. I know the three shops near me post about what beers come in via Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
With Founders releasing KBS to grocery stores the craft beer enthusiasts will have to battle with the every day beer aisle wonderer for the sweet taste of KBS. Will this type of behavior be good for the craft beer industry? Will you be out bottle hunting for KBS? How far will the bottle stores go with price gouging?