‘Micro distributor’ making big impact in local craft beer market

Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 4:21 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - If you’re sipping a local craft brew in between ski runs this winter, who is getting it to the resort? And how can you be sure it’s the freshest it can be It’s a job Vermont’s smallest beer distributor takes seriously.

Will Ewald searches the cooler at the Vermont Beer Shepherd to show his favorite brew. He’s been working as a shepherd for the company since its founding seven years ago. “Trying to get fresh craft beer into the hands of people statewide,” Ewald said.

Ewald, along with his parents, Indy and Mark, decided to do distribution differently. “I’ve heard all the stories of, ‘Hey, I want this special beer but it’s not fresh, it’s not cold, I can’t find it,’” Ewald said.

“Our focus is working with independent producers,” added Indy.

The Waterbury company help herd the region’s favorite craft beer statewide, from producer to ski mountain, restaurant, or package store, ensuring the quality isn’t lost in transit. They operate on a small scale -- only three trucks -- and 23 employees --not including their furry welcoming committee.

“A place where people feel safe, they feel included. and a place where they can thrive,” Indy said.

Ewald says that goes for their customers, their producers, and their employees. But you don’t have to take their commitment to quality from the shepherd’s mouth... “They’ve been able to reach those far away parts of Vermont for us and do a fantastic job covering those areas,” said Lawson’s Finest Liquids owner Sean Lawson. He awarded the company the Lawson’s Finest Distributor Award last month and says they are responsible for extending his brand’s reach into the Northeast kingdom and beyond. “They’re an important part of the solution for a number of small brewers to get their product to restaurant, retail, and bar locations.”

“One brewery led to another and now we have a pretty good portfolio of Vermont products,” Ewald said.

Mark Ewald is “head shepherd” and has watched all nine of their brewers come on board. He says most craft beer is not pasteurized, meaning it has less shelf stability, so handling it with care and keeping it cold is vital. “Our business is based on cold chain distribution,” he said.

Mark says he wants to ensure when you crack a cold one, it should taste as the brewers intended it. And in fulfilling that mission, he hopes new brands trust them to help share their beer with the state. “Continue to attract the best small brewers in Vermont, because craft beer is such an important part of the Vermont culture,” he said.