Most folks don’t give a second thought to how their favorite six-pack got on the shelf, unless they have an unusual affinity for logistics or a strong passion for the craft beer community. Thankfully, Taylor and Sara McDermott aren’t most people.
After years of working for both breweries and large distributors, the now-married team struck out on their own to start the craft-centric distributor Artisan Beverage Group, believing there was a better path to market for smaller, independent beverage manufacturers.
“Because of our background, our relationships, and our brands, we have the ability to be nimble and work with the market to bring the most innovative and exciting things to retailers and consumers,” says Taylor.
To celebrate their third year in business, and to show the full range of their clients’ capabilities, Artisan is throwing a tap takeover at Salud Cerveceria (one of those aforementioned Artisan clients) on June 16 from 6-11 p.m. While the line-up is still under wraps, expect an assortment of goodies stretching from a funky saison to juicy double-IPA, crisp Helles lager to barreled stout.
While they’re certainly aiming to entertain, they’re also hoping to put a public face on a largely behind-the-scenes industry.
“People don’t understand distributors,” says Taylor. “There’s a lot of unfortunate rhetoric there, and a lot of unknowns.”
Drawing on their prior experience in the industry, Artisan’s appeal to prospective clients is simple: “We know how each side (breweries and distributors) looks at each other, especially when things aren’t going well, so we understand that dynamic,” says Taylor. “We can help breweries help us. That transitions into a really good partnership that works for both sides.”
Their client list ranges widely, from hop-forward wares of Brooklyn-based Sixpoint Brewery, funkier fare by Oregon’s Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, and the inventiveness of Illinois’ Scratch Brewing Company. It’s not all alcohol; cold brew from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, kombucha from Redemption Brew Works, and MATI Energy drinks are included under the Artisan umbrella.
Breweries in contiguous counties also utilize Artisan as a path into Charlotte; Rock Hill’s Legal Remedy Brewing, Waxhaw’s Dreamchasers Brewery, and Monroe’s Southern Range Brewing have all signed on. Even Charlotte-based breweries use Artisan, with Birdsong Brewing sending their suds into the Triangle, and Lenny Boy Brewing trusting the team to distribute their kombucha throughout the state.
Originally focusing on the greater Charlotte area, the plucky outfit cautiously expanded into western North Carolina before creeping eastward into the Triangle. “You don’t want to go up there and open a bunch of customers and not be able to support them,” explains Sara.
Currently, their 11 employees handle territory covering most of North Carolina, from Asheville to near-Fayetteville.
“We’re growing smart, we’re not overextending ourselves, and we’re aligning ourselves with the right partners,” says Taylor. “You have to be strategic.”
They’ve already covered much ground over the course of the last three years, but where does the future lead Artisan Beverage Group? Taylor says, “We want to be able to get cool stuff to everybody in our state.”
Photos by Jonathan Wells