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The Effects Of Expanded Distribution

Michael Donato, August 04, 2014 -   

Two Roads Brewing Company is a brewery from Connecticut that recently expanded into New York. They did a good job promoting the expansion, hosting many tap takeovers and events. Connecticut isn't exactly considered a haven of good craft beer, so I was interested to see how the expanded area affected the ratings and how the beer has been received outside its home state.

Two Roads has an overall rating of 3.67. They've got about 20 beers ranging from their Roadsmary's Baby Pumpkin at 2.79 BAR to their Igor's Dream Russian Imperial Stout at -0.9. I've had two of their beers myself, and I enjoyed both. I normally don't care for the white IPA style, but I found Two Roads' Honeyspot Road (0.11 BAR) version of it pretty tasty with lots of hop character. Freshness definitely played into my opinion, since my bottle had been picked up at the brewery by my uncle just eight days prior to me drinking it, which is pretty damn fresh. The other one, their Ol'Factory Pils (2.42 BAR) is a dry-hopped German Pilsner which I also had very fresh. It was a crisp and tasty beer with lots of flavor that I could drink all day long. 

2/19/2014

Rating

Check-Ins

After

3.651104

3534

Before

3.680723

6640

The New York check-ins started rolling in on February 19th. Before that the overall rating for Two Roads was a tick higher at 3.68, whereas after it dropped to 3.65. This is probably what you'd expect from expansion on any level. Quality control and freshness are going to start getting more out of control, and ratings should slip, however slight. If there's any internal hometown bump in ratings, that's going to be diluted by adding in out of state drinkers.

Looking at just the New York check-ins, that rating drops even further to 3.63, which brings down the overall rating of the brewery while Connecticut predictably has a steady rating at 3.68 both before and after NY distribution. There are always new breweries, and even hardcore fans like myself are always finding new breweries when we go to the store. It's hard for those guys to break into our preconceived notions about good beer unless they're already one of the coveting out of state breweries we've heard of. 

There are more breweries than Two Roads obviously. Here's DuClaw Brewing Company, a Maryland brewery that recently expanded and started distribution to include New Jersey among other places and has an overall rating of 3.78. The check-ins in New Jersey started in right around December 6th.

12/6/2013

Rating

Check-Ins

After

3.774951

14799

Before

3.782891

14419

The difference here is much less stark, and the sample is a lot larger. DuClaw is also a better brewery that's been around longer. However in DuClaw's case, the rating is actually better strictly in New Jersey: 3.87. I have not yet tried anything from them personally, but I just bought a bottle of their top rated (6.33 BAR) beer, Sweet Baby Jesus!, a chocolate peanut butter stout. 

Let's try a third brewery, this time let's look at Bell's Brewery's expansion into New York.  It started to really arrive on 10/10/2013. Originally this was just parts of New York, and this past February the expansion reached New York City. 

10/10/2013

Rating

Check-Ins

After

4.004419

106484

Before

4.097941

93551

Interesting. After Bell's beers started showing up in NY, the overall rating dropped from 4.1 to 4.0. The brewery's overall rating, 4.05, falls right in the middle of this drop. This difference drops somewhat if you move the date to Hopslam's release in January, but that's not exactly fair. It does raise an interesting point though; if the decline in overall rating is due to longer time from bottling to drinking, and perhaps less control over how retailers are storing the beer, this would be mitigated somewhat by the limited availability of Hopslam and the quick purchases. Bell's overall rating in NY is 3.94, although if you try to stick to just the NYC metropolitan area it does tick up to almost 4. 

Expansion and wide distribution is great because it allows us to get our hands on great beer that would otherwise be difficult to acquire, but it's not without it's costs. This is a statistical representation of what we've all heard plenty of times; a brewery's beer is often best drunk locally. Expanding to a new area, even with tap takeovers and plenty of exposure, can have its own growing pains. 

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