Sarene Craft Beer: The Distributors
If you think making beer is tough, try distributing it: loading and navigating trucks or dealing with Anheuser-Busch InBev’s “incentive program,” which reimburses those who mostly carries their mass-produced product. Although the number of beer distributors has contracted from about 5,000 in 1980 to 3,000 now, that trend didn’t stop brothers Matt and Eric Schulman, along with a cousin and longtime friend, from launching Sarene Craft, the hippest craft-beer distributor on the East Coast.
According to Matt Schulman, the idea hit when he was working at a New York craft brewer: “One of our suppliers offhandedly said, ‘You guys do a good job, but I wish there was another option for wholesalers. You should open one.” (It may have helped that the Schulmans’ great-grandfather was a Wisconsin moonshiner during Prohibition days.) Sarene, named in honor of the Schulman’s late sister, launched in 2013, serving New York and Connecticut; thanks to the brothers’ face-to-face salesmanship — they even drove their own trucks for a while — they’ve managed to break not only into bars but retailers like Whole Foods.
Just as vital to its success is the company’s carefully curated selection of the best craft beer available—a mere 26 brands, including the worthy likes of Pipeworks, Central Waters and Knee Deep. “Anyone can start a distributor,” says Schulman. “But we’re super-selective about what we bring in. We’ve turned down 200 brands. We’re not peddling a pile of whatever’s new. It has to taste good and have quality according to our tastes.”