MUSKEGON — About five years ago, the fledgling Pigeon Hill Brewing Co. LLC in Muskegon shipped its beer out of the state for the first time when it sent a single keg to the Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia.
“I remember sitting in a bar in Philadelphia drinking a pint of our beer and thinking it would be really fun to do this in another state someday — it would be really fun to walk in a store and grab one of our cans,” said Michael Brower, co-founder and director of sales and marketing for Pigeon Hill. “The time just hadn’t been right until now.”
Pigeon Hill will now have a more permanent presence outside of the Mitten as it established a limited distribution deal that would bring a variety of its brands to Central Florida.
Pigeon Hill is working with Williamston-based marketing and consulting firm SimpleSpeak and has partnered with Orlando-based Sunshine State Distribution for its foray into out-of-state distribution. Pigeon Hill initially offered three SKUs to the market, which included such beers as its Salted Caramel Porter, Oatmeal Creme Pie, Renny Double IPA, No Diggnity NEIPA and Beach Please Summer Ale. The distributor plans to make the canned beers available at finer craft beer stores.
The company also expects to ship additional core brands and limited rotational offerings in the future.
Pigeon Hill will continue to work with SimpleSpeak on for distribution, branding and marketing consultation.
The brewery staff joked on social media that it chose Florida because family and friends that spend time there were clamoring for a taste of home.
“That was a legitimate reason why Florida was in the back of our heads, but as somewhat of a joke,” Brower said. “Then we partnered with SimpleSpeak, which is basically just Mark Logusz, and he has extensive experience with distributors outside of Michigan. We talked through some of our goals and a cost-benefit analysis. Florida and Sunshine State Distributing kind of fit what we were looking for — kind of a slow, organic approach to going outside of Michigan.”
Skipping over the Midwest all the way down to Florida did not present any significant logistical challenges, either.
“It was just a matter of dealing with the Florida licensing and finding the right partnership with a distributor and then loading the beer on the truck when the beer came,” said Brower, who also works as a liquor lawyer by trade. “They’re handling the logistics for us. That’s kind of the nice thing about the scale that we’re approaching this. Rather than try to take an entire state — take it by storm — we’re picking a partner in a smaller geographical area of one state and letting it build organically from there.”
Brower also said that distribution in Central Florida will help brewery owners gauge whether they want to continue scouting new territories to bring their beer while keeping clients on the homefront of Muskegon fully stocked.
“I think it’s a dry run to see how it's perceived outside of the state and it’s a dry run to see how far we want to take it,” Brower said. “One thing that we’ve said from day one is that we’re going to stop when it stops being fun. We like challenges, but we also love what we do.”
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