Along with small local craft breweries, specialty distributors have become an important new category of wholesalers in the craft beer business.
Last year, Liberator Distributing, which distributes Shelton Brothers imports and other notable beers in Atlanta, was involved in presenting The Festival, which ranks among the most exciting tasting events to land in Atlanta.
Later this month, Modern Hops, a small, Alpharetta-based distributor, will follow suit with the Day of the Juice, a charity beer festival billed as “featuring some of the juiciest beers in the country.”
Eric Levin, who grew up in Alpharetta, started Modern Hops in May 2017, and since then, its portfolio has been growing steadily.
“I had a sales job working in health care, and I used to travel up and down the East Coast just about every week,” Levin said during a recent interview. “I really developed a passion for craft beer, so wherever I went, I would find the hottest breweries in the city and visit the popular bottles shops.
“Then I got heavily into beer trading, so I would go to Boston and bring back suitcases of Trillium and Tree House beers and end up trading for things across the country. It was sort of like trading baseball cards as a kid. But I thought there must be a better way to do this.”
Levin said becoming friends with Nick Tanner, the owner and brewmaster at Cumming’s Cherry Street Brewing, led to the founding of a distributorship.
“I could see that for a small craft brewery like Cherry Street, it was difficult to get beer into the market,” Levin said. “Long story short, we came up with a concept of a craft beer wholesaler and modeled it after what a couple of people were doing in other states.
“What we’re doing is taking beer directly from the brewery and delivering directly to the retailer. We’re mostly pre-selling the beer and working off as little inventory as possible. And the beer is kept cold the whole time to make sure it’s always fresh when it arrives.”
Starting with Cherry Street, Modern Hops’ philosophy has been to create diversity in its offerings.
“We’re trying to develop a portfolio that’s almost like a tap list,” Levin said. “We don’t want competing brands. We want a brewery that’s great with IPAs and another one that’s great with sours. Maybe a brewery that does a lot of draft and another one that’s heavy on packaged beer.
“But we have more breweries that we’re working with than I thought we would at this point. We’ve started to get into mead, just because of the demand for it, and cider, too. We have about 15 breweries that we work with now.”
Among those accounts, Akademia Brewing is a newish brewpub in Athens. Superstition Meadery in Prescott, Ariz., produces some of the top-rated meads in the country. Une Annee in the Chicago area makes much sought after sour beers.
Une Annee, along with a variety of small, under the radar breweries from around the country, will be present at the Day of the Juice, which will take place March 31 at the Monday Night Garage private event space in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood.
“We really got tired of seeing all these beer festivals around Atlanta that are kind of cookie-cutter,” Levin said. “We wanted to get the best beer possible with a focus on IPAs, and we wanted beer that was never in Georgia before.
“There are a lot of unknown breweries on the list that the nerdy people are going to be excited about. And then there are some that everyone’s going to be really excited about, once they taste the beer. Equilibrium and Sand City from out of New York state are breweries where there are three- to four-hour waits outside their doors when there’s a can release.”
The Day of the Juice Charity Beer Festival presented by Modern Hops
1-5 p.m. March 31. $65-$80, plus fee and sales tax, with all proceeds to benefit the Georgia Transplant Foundation and the PKD Foundation. Monday Night Brewing Garage, 1003 White St. SW, Atlanta. eventbrite.com.