A short subway ride from Manhattan, behind a garage door, is a bustling brewpub. SingleCut Beer is a Queens brewery producing highly sought-after beer made in very small batches. Three hundred miles away, in bucolic Shelburne, Vt., patrons wait to fill growlers at Fiddlehead Brewing Co. The red, barn-like building, across from a vineyard and loads of farmland, also houses a casual pizza joint.
Despite the difference in setting, the two breweries have a lot of common. Both are small. Both brew beer that’s in high demand. And both typically sell to places close to home because of concerns about freshness and the limit in production ability.
Adam Oliveri is building a business around these two breweries and others like them. This spring, he founded Stoughton-based Craft Collective, a boutique distribution company designed to suit the needs of tiny breweries. Most beers are distributed by a handful of the same large distributors. So far, he’s scooped up 16 of them, including hard-to-find and highly rated breweries like Vermont’s Queen City Brewery and Four Quarters Brewing, Connecticut’s Kent Falls Brewing and Relic Brewing Co., and Rhode Island’s Proclamation Ale Co. Oliveri is also representing SingleCut and Fiddlehead.
When looking to expand distribution, SingleCut founder Rich Buceta chose Craft Collective for several reasons. “We far prefer the responsiveness a smaller distributor provides,” he says. “Freshness is key. Our beer tends to be mostly distributed within days upon them receiving it.” Buceta also cites the collective staff’s increased knowledge, and the distributor’s tendency to work with retailers that push more high-end beers.
Oliveri’s pitch to breweries is simple. “They just can’t tell as effective of a story to customers as we can,” he says. That extra attention requires legwork. Oliveri will send a truck to some of the smaller breweries in New York and New England to bring beer to the Boston area. Some may give him only a few cases. Buceta is betting that brewers who have very little to sell right now will grow larger and more popular. “Fiddlehead gives us almost no beer,” he says, citing the brewery’s limited production.
Another part of Oliveri’s business plan: to set up a brewery incubator. He wants to help get small brewers get off the ground; his company would eventually distribute the brews.
“Boston could be a 25 percent craft consumption town, but with a lot more breweries,” says Oliveri. “If every town has one or two little breweries, it starts to become a major part of the culture.”