Lancaster beer-kit maker forges sales partnership
A Lancaster-based company is hoping to cash in on recent changes to state liquor laws and give beer enthusiasts the ultimate variety-pack experience this holiday season.
The Case for Beer LLC has formed a partnership with Wheatland Distributors in East Hempfield Township to begin selling in November a new 24-pack of its specialized beer box, known as a craft beer flight kit.
Wheatland is the first store to sell the 24-packs. Up until now, The Case for Beer has been selling only 12-packs since launching in 2014.
Box lids on the flight kits are perforated with numbered squares that hide the individual bottles or cans inside, similar to an advent calendar, so the beers are a surprise to the buyer. On the back side of each square is a code that people can enter on The Case for Beer's website to learn more about the breweries and individual beers.
Case for Beer co-founder Ryan Sauder sees his company's product as a potential way to supplement beer tourism in the midstate.
Visitors may check out a local brewpub or two on a trip, but they rarely have time to get to them all.
If they buy a flight kit, they can sample local brews, which may entice them to visit another local brewery the next time they are in town.
"For people here for one or two days, it's an experience in a box they can take with them," Sauder said.
The Case for Beer works with beer stores to come up with the kit mix. The retailer then fills the box, depending on what is available from wholesalers.
Recently, the company began selling a 12-pack kit at Wheatland with beers from Central Pennsylvania and other parts of the commonwealth.
Wheatland owner Keith Rutt called the flight kits a nice fit for his business, given the growing trend among buyers to purchase mixed packs and smaller quantities of craft beer.
Under a change in the state law, beer distributors in Pennsylvania can sell beer in a variety of packaging sizes, down to a single bottle or can. Splitting up cases means more work for distributors, but it can also be more profitable as consumers might buy smaller packages of higher-priced beers that they were meaning to try but couldn't afford as 12-packs or cases.
The change in the law also has helped bring new beer varieties to distributors as stores have been reconfigured to sell smaller quantities. Some retailers also are looking to add more shelf space for new brands.
"Every single week, we're getting new beers," said LeAnn Supeck, Rutt's daughter.
The 24-packs from The Case for Beer will include craft beer not just from Pennsylvania, but from across the country.
The goal, Sauder said, is for the kits to appeal to people as a holiday or special occasion purchase, especially for buyers who may be intimidated by the volume of beer varieties today, but want a good gift for someone. Supeck said many 12-pack kits have been sold to women around Father's Day or the Fourth of July.
Over time, Sauder hopes to sell more kits during non-holiday times.
Prices for the kits will vary depending on the collection of beer inside. The current 12-packs at Wheatland have been selling for about $35. Other 12-pack kits have pushed $50 or more, Sauder said. "From the retailer's standpoint, it's finding the right mix to what is a sensible price."
The cases will likely sell for around $90 to $100 as some small-batch, higher-end beers are harder to get and cost more. And they have to be split up to fill kits.
If kit demand grows and laws regarding interstate shipping of beer improve, Sauder said The Case for Beer will look to scale up through online distribution.
A Google form has been set up to gauge demand for the kits.