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Funkwerks Talks the Opportunities and Strategy of Launching in a New Market

Funkwerks Talks the Opportunities and Strategy of Launching in a New Market
Taylor Laabs

Colorado makes a lot of good beer; thankfully, many of the brewers that call the state home have made it a point to distribute their goods outside of their state lines. As margins continue to decrease and shelf space continues to dwindle, the mid-size breweries that distribute on a regional basis have shrunk as well. Throwing your beer into a new state is a harrowing business venture that requires a variety of planning and strategy to ensure that your beer competes well on-shelves and on draft with more local options. Fort Collins-based Funkwerks recently made such a move, announcing that four of their offerings are now available in Chicago, tallying their total distribution presence to 11 states.

Photo Credit: Funkwerks Brewing

Beer fans can now find four new Funkwerks offerings on-shelves in 6-packs of bottles and in local Chicago bars now: Saison, Raspberry Provincial, White, and Tropic King. The recent distribution push makes sense to Funkwerks for a few reasons. First, it’s the city where Gordon Schuck, co-founder and head brewer, met his fellow co-founder, Brad Lincoln. Both were studying brewing at the Siebel Institute for Technology, making the Windy City the birthplace of the Belgian-inspired brewery that now calls Colorado home.

Gordon (left) & Brad (right). Photo Credit: Funkwerks Brewing

Second, and perhaps most importantly, the move to Chicago aligns well with Funkwerks’ larger sales partnership with Brooklyn Brewery and 21st Amendment Brewing. The three breweries entered into a partnership in 2017 to better align their sales, shipment, and distribution strategies when it came to offering their beers outside of their respective home states of Colorado, New York and California. The addition of Chicago and the surrounding region makes it the 9th distribution-aligned territory where all three breweries can be found alongside each other.

According to Schuck, their distribution strategy moving forward is to only enter markets that their distribution partners are already in so that they can further utilize the strength of the joint sales teams already in the region. Approaching the market of Chicago and it’s large swath of diverse brewing options is definitely a challenge, but it’s one that Schuck thinks his brewery is prepared for. “Chicago’s beer culture is well established, which is important for our niche style beers to be well received by the beer community. A well established beer scene also means that the competition is fierce.”

Offering unique beer styles like their GABF award-winning Saison and Raspberry Provincial, alongside the likes of White, their Belgian-style wit, are definitely a way to differentiate their beer in the market. Partnering with the prominent Windy City Distribution also helps.

After a successful launch in Chicago earlier this month, the goal now is to remain competitive in the market and expand even further throughout the U.S. There’s a lot of strategy involved, but Schuck is confident in what lies ahead. “We hope to align our footprint with that of 21st Amendment and Brooklyn for the support of the combined sales force…[so that we can align] our shipping and centralized warehouses to lower our individual carbon footprint and get smaller shipments of our beer in places [they] wouldn’t be able to without combining shipping with our sales partners.”

This multi-selling partnership + equity equation isn’t new to the marketplace, ala CANarchy, but it is compelling to see three craft breweries from East to West embrace the strategic synergies that lie in these types of distribution partnerships. Regardless, I’m just going to be happy to find another great Saison on-shelves in Chicago. It’s a style I can never get enough of, especially with summer right around the corner. Cheers!

Feature image courtesy of Funkwerks.

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