I know a lot of people who angst about beer-lovin’ favorite Fat Tire, myself included. So when I went home over break, I was thrilled to find Fat Tire in all my favorite North Carolina bars. Which begged the question, if Fat Tire has bridged the Mississippi River and come East, why hasn’t it arrived in the DMV area yet?
So I set out to ask Greg Engert, beer God over at the Neighborhood Restaurant Group all about the process of acquiring certain beers. He’s worked with both Rustico and Churchkey to procure all kinds of crazy beers, including my favorite beer of all time, Chimay Red, and my runner-up favorite Raspberry Lambic.
Greg explained: “In order to get your favorite brand into DC/ VA, there are many hoops one has to jump through. First is actually establishing if the brewer of said beer has the production capacity to ship to a new territory. Presuming production is capable, a distributor in the area has to be procured. Once a distributor has agreed, then the beer will start shipping. With imports, the brewery needs to have ample product, and then both an importer and a separate distributor need to be established as well.”
Which makes perfect sense – your favorite beer from little town in Nebraska nowhere isn’t going to have any easy time distributing to all of the District. But that’s not the only hurdle.
“All beers that are new to the US need to have their labels approved by the Tax and Trade Bureau. This hoop would presumably only be new to an import, as domestic brews have been sold elsewhere in the states before arriving in a new area,” said Greg. “So the brewery would have to be willing to register and pay the fees associated with such approval. Additionally, certain states, VA included, require another label approval, this time done by the state government. Both domestic and international breweries would have to register each new brew with the state and pay additional fees. This addition serves to deter many brands from coming into such markets. A lot of times, the breweries don’t have much excess beer, so they will choose to ship into areas without this secondary label approval.”
Which is why there are beers available in Maryland that aren’t in Virginia. Making sense class? Engert finishes up by making a case for contacting your favorite brewery and letting them know you love them and want them. “Contacting local retailers and bars-restaurants to inquire about beers will be helpful. I can typically let interested parties know if certain beers are available, or ever have been, and also inform them as to why a brew has yet to enter our market. I am also able to work with breweries and distributors and importers to see about getting new lagers and ales. My ability to commit to certain amounts of products and even to set up launch parties makes me a good ally in the quest to bring your favorite beers to DC and VA.”
Which means one thing: Beer nerds unite and talk to your friendly bartenders. Now go forth and lobby!