Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors sup­ports lo­cal craft brew­eries

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EAS­TON — Amer­ica’s in­de­pen­dent beer dis­trib­u­tors are small busi­nesses that de­liver beer to store shelves and restau­rants in com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try.

They help brew­ers of all sizes and from all over the world to grow by bring­ing their prod­uct to re­tail­ers, who can pro­vide con­sumers with un­prece­dented choice and va­ri­ety, es­pe­cially as new craft beers flood the mar­ket ev­ery day.

Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors, of Eas­ton, which has a port­fo­lio of 16 lo­cal craft brew­eries from Mary­land, Delaware, Vir­ginia and Penn­syl­va­nia, has been work­ing with two lo­cal brew­eries since their starts, watch­ing and en­joy­ing the tremen­dous growth they have ex­pe­ri­enced over the last 10 years and work­ing with them to pro­mote their

beer at lo­cal and re­gional com­mu­nity events.

“With the ex­plo­sion of craft brew, beer drinkers have ac­quired ed­u­cated pal­ettes,” said Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors Sales Man­ager Bobby Kelly. “To­day, there is a good brew­ery in ev­ery town and there is town loy­alty with hy­per lo­cal sup­port. Ev­ery­one wants to taste the lo­cal beer.”

RAR Brew­ing in Cam­bridge, an­other lo­cal brew­ery in Kelly Distrib­u­tor’s port­fo­lio, has ex­ploded into the craft beer mar­ket since it was started in 2013 by Cam­bridge own­ers Chris Bro­hawn and J.T. Mer­ri­weather. Randy Mills, RAR’s head brewer, is now one of the com­pany’s own­ers as well.

Direc­tor of Sales for RAR Shawn Smith said the own­ers turned to Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors re­la­tion­ships with area restau­rants, bars and liquor stores to help sell its beer. Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors is the beer maker’s distrib­u­tor for the five Up­per Shore coun­ties, with eight rep­re­sen­ta­tives han­dling RAR’s pack­age and draft beer, dis­tribut­ing 120,000 case-equiv­a­lent (cans and kegs) an­nu­ally.

“Kelly is a well-oiled ma­chine for dis­tri­bu­tion,” Smith said. “Bird Dog Wheeler, the Sales Man­ager at the time, was in­stru­men­tal in de­vel­op­ing the re­la­tion­ship with the brew­ery early on.”

When RAR be­gan, they of­fered only draft beer on eight taps, which in­cluded their own Buck­town and Nec­tar brews, as well as other craft beers. To­day, the brew­ery only fea­tures its own brews on tap, of­fer­ing 12 beers daily.

In 2014, RAR be­gan can­ning its Nec­tar and Groove City brews. The brew­ery now of­fers four to eight spe­cial brew re­leases a month, pre-sell­ing tick­ets for the re­leases and sell­ing out well ahead of the re­lease, with lines form­ing at the door for peo­ple want­ing to pur­chase the beer.

In 2017, RAR put in a new sys­tem and went from be­ing a 10-bar­rel brew house to a 20-bar­rel brew house – dou­bling its ca­pac­ity and dou­bling its fer­men­ta­tion space. Nec­tar is 70 per­cent of its busi­ness, fol­lowed by other RAR fa­vorites, Groove City and He­feweizen. The RAR brand has been pop­u­lar­ized by BJ Wheat­ley, an artist and em­ployee who il­lus­trates all of the brands.

“The world of craft beer is hot now,” Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors Craft Brand Man­ager Shane Pen­ning­ton. “You have to stay in­no­va­tive with brews and brand­ing to keep your beer sell­ing in the mar­ket­place. Kelly is hon­ored to have RAR in our port­fo­lio. They are putting out qual­ity prod­ucts.

“We work closely to­gether on dis­tri­bu­tion and sales op­por­tu­ni­ties on the Shore,” he said. “RAR has the high­est rate of sales in our ter­ri­tory. We are sell­ing 15 times more of RAR now than when we started dis­tribut­ing their prod­ucts.”

At RAR’s re­cent 2018 Dank Day, the brew­ery hosted 49 brew­eries at Sail­winds Park in Cam­bridge – a highly suc­cess­ful event for the brew­ery. By 2019, RAR will have an ex­panded kitchen to of­fer its lite fare, share­ables, and hand­helds. The ex­pan­sion will also in­clude an ex­pan­sion of its bar­rel-ag­ing pro­gram for RAR’s spe­cialty beers.

Ac­cord­ing to Smith, RAR’s tast­ing room of­fers “bar food well done.” The brew­ery’s crab cake won first prize in the Taste of Cam­bridge.

Adrian “Ace” Moritz, Owner of East­ern Shore Brew­ing in St. Michaels, the old­est brew­ery on Mary­land’s East­ern Shore, is cel­e­brat­ing his com­pany’s 10th an­niver­sary. In March 2008, Moritz met Clyde Kelly, owner of Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors, at the Open­ing Day of the Crab Claw Res­tau­rant be­fore his brew­ery was even open.

“Orig­i­nally, I had wanted to self-dis­trib­ute my beer, but de­cided to talk to them and I am glad I did,” Moritz said. “The great thing about us­ing Kelly is that they know ev­ery­body.

“Our re­la­tion­ship with them is huge,” he said. “It was es­pe­cially im­por­tant in the early days when we only had draft beer. You had to wait for a spigot to open at a res­tau­rant or bar for them to carry your beer.”

East­ern Shore Brew­ing was the 13th brew­ery Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors rep­re­sented in Mary­land. To­day, they rep­re­sent 25 brew­eries. At the time East­ern Shore Brew­ing opened, there were 900 brew­eries na­tion­ally. To­day, there are 7,000 brew­eries in the US.

“Clyde was a re­ally down to earth per­son,” Moritz said. “It meant a lot to me to have an­other busi­ness owner part­ner with me in those early years. I put trust in Clyde as he of­fered his ex­per­tise to me as a start-up. We grew up to­gether. He stood by us the en­tire time. I look at our re­la­tion­ship as a part­ner­ship. If I’m doing well, he’s doing well and vice versa.”

About two thirds of East­ern Shore Brew­ery’s beer is sold by distrib­u­tor. About one third of its beer is sold at the brew­ery, where it of­fers be­tween eight and nine beers on tap. Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors helps pro­mote lo­cal craft brew­eries at lo­cal and re­gional fes­ti­vals and events, while also of­fer­ing Tap Takeover events where brew­ery own­ers go to restau­rants and pour beer in or­der to get to know the busi­ness own­ers and cus­tomers.

“We rely on the great re­la­tion­ships that Kelly has with its cus­tomers,” Moritz said. “To­day, ev­ery can and keg is sold be­fore it is made.”

In 2007, East­ern Shore Brew­ing started of­fer­ing its beer in cans, which bear a vi­brant Mary­land flag, cre­at­ing in­stant brand recog­ni­tion for the beer.

“As an An­heuser-Busch distrib­u­tor, we work with other AB Dis­trib­u­tors to dis­trib­ute beer for East­ern Shore Brew­ing,” Kelly said. “An­heuser Busch has eight dis­trib­u­tors in Mary­land, Kelly helps dis­trib­ute East­ern Shore Brew­ery’s beer to these other dis­trib­u­tors. To­day, restau­rants ro­tate their craft beers through some­thing they call ‘Ro­ta­tion Na­tion’ — now com­mit­ting to tap­ping more lo­cal beer full time.”

In 2008, East­ern Shore Brew­ery was brew­ing 150 bar­rels (31 gal­lons) of beer. In 2018, East­ern Shore Brew­ery is brew­ing 1200 bar­rels (cans and draft beer). This rep­re­sents a 106 per­cent in­crease. East­ern Shore Brew­ing is avail­able in liquor stores all over the East­ern Shore from Cam­bridge to An­napo­lis to Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Be­cause Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors be­lieves in sup­port­ing lo­cal craft brew­eries and the com­mu­ni­ties where it serves, the distrib­u­tor is help­ing to sup­port Eas­ton Beer Fest from noon to 4 p.m. Satur­day, Oct. 6, at the Eas­ton Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment. Both RAR

and East­ern Shore Brew­ery will be among the 45 brew­ers pour­ing 100 beers at the Fes­ti­val, which ben­e­fits the Eas­ton Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment.

Now in its third year, the event ex­pects to draw 900 to 1,000 par­tic­i­pants. The fes­ti­val will fea­ture Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors lo­cal craft beer port­fo­lio, in­clud­ing craft beers from Mary­land, Delaware, Vir­ginia and Penn­syl­va­nia. The fea­tured beers in­clude Evo­lu­tion Craft Brew­ing, RAR Brew­ing, East­ern Shore Brew­ing, Back­shore Brew­ing, Na­tional Pre­mium, Wild Goose Brew­ing, Ford­ham/Do­min­ion Brew­ing, Mispillion River Brew­ing, Blue Earl Brew­ing, Troegs Brew­ing Com­pany, Vic­tory Brew­ing Com­pany, Lan­caster Brew­ing Com­pany, Wyn­dridge Farm Brew­ing, Stone Brew­ing, Dev­ils Back­bone and Bold Rock Cidery, as well as Guin­ness.

Chris Hash, fire­fighter and trustee on Eas­ton Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment Board of Trustees, said the fire depart­ment has worked with Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors for 18 years on its fundrais­ers, in­clud­ing its an­nual Bull Roast and Casino Night and Golf Tour­na­ment.

“They were our first call when we came up with our Beer Fest fundraiser,” Hash said. “They have one of the largest port­fo­lios of lo­cal brew­eries and have al­ways helped us with mar­ket­ing and lo­gis­tics with our events. Their ‘can do’ at­ti­tude through­out the plan­ning of this event has re­ally helped us. They are great to work with.Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors likes to help its lo­cal fire depart­ment be­cause it’s their com­mu­nity too.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors, con­tact them at 410-822-2175 or visit kel­ly­dis­trib­u­


RAR Brew­ing em­ploy­ees Devin Wheat­ley, left; Da’Mir Ed­wards; Kelly Dis­trib­u­tors Craft Brand Man­ager Shane Pen­ning­ton; Direc­tor of Sales for RAR Shawn Smith; BJ Wheat­ley and Toby Dono­van make a toast at RAR Brew­ing.

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