Along With Nice Cans They Partner with Breweries to Bring Craft Beers to Consumers
By: Jeff Walker, Business Review
Making great tasting beers, and one’s consumers will buy regularly is one thing, but getting those beers to the customer is another thing entirely. Thank God for businesses such as Charleston based Holy City Distribution, which provide smaller and start up craft brewers a chance to compete with the big boys.
For centuries, aside from a few independents the age-old beer companies such as Anheuser Busch, Miller, and Coors have pretty much controlled the industry. With their dominance came wealth and power, which allowed the behemoths to become self-performing.
Financial gains provided the big breweries to build larger facilities, not only to make and expand their products, but with increased money they were able to can and bottle their alcoholic beverages. Additional funds created marketing opportunities and helped form partnerships with larger distributers, making it easier to get their products to the consumer, ie restaurants, bars, and retail outlets.
Although the major breweries have dominated for decades, it began to change in the late 1990’s with smaller craft beer makers slowly beginning to grab a decent chunk of the market share in the 21st century. The same can be said for the local craft brewers in greater Charleston. With just a few on low country scene prior to the year 2000, more than two decades later Charleston has 30 plus craft brewers all offering up some of the best beers known to mankind.
However, unlike the big beer guys, local craft brewers still face the challenge of getting the word out. More importantly, canning their product as well as distribution beyond their own hallowed brewery halls is often a tough hill to climb. Time and additional resources are the two biggest factors.
With all the costs of setting up operations (licensing, insurance, equipment), oftentimes borrowing from financial institutions and family members there’s not much left over even when they eventually have beers ready to present to consumers. Usually beginning with a skeleton crew, again there’s little time to help market, distribute, and package their products should they decide to reach a customer base beyond their own brewhouse.
That’s where companies like Holy City Distribution come into play. Centrally located in the low country at 4365 Dorchester Rd. Suite 110 North Charleston, Holy City Distribution is a family run, employee-owned business that focuses on helping local brewers deliver their craft beers to supermarkets, eateries, and taverns 24/7.
Currently representing ten craft breweries including one in North Carolina, Holy City Distribution not only bring select craft beers to the consumer, but they also help the brewers secure contracts with outlets, as well as get their products placed appropriately among the competition, whether that be on store shelves or on tap at your favorite watering hole.
On the surface Holy City Distribution appear to simply be the ideal go between for local craft brewers and the marketplace, however they do also assist in one very important detail. With the craft beer industry so scrutinized by alcohol commissions, Holy City Distribution help secure all the proper paperwork, that is mandated by the state Alcohol Board of Licensing for accountability. Safe to say Holy City Distribution and their customers form a symbiotic relationship, since by state law local brewers must have a distributor to carry their products to outside retailers.
Carrying kegs and growlers to specific customers is one thing, but Holy City Distribution’s sideline business Nice Cans goes a step further in assisting their customers. Very few if any local craft brewers have canning capabilities, nor the means or facilities to undertake additional operations. Nice Cans allows local beer makers to can and label their lagers, ales, stouts, and IPA’s, which in turn helps brand their beers overall.
Together Holy City Distribution and Nice Cans go hand in hand, removing some of the biggest hurdles local craft beer brewers face. First and foremost, craft beer brewers must have a distribution affiliation of some kind whether they choose to distribute their products beyond their hallowed halls or not, and Holy City Distribution offer no long-term contracts, delivery on demand, and more importantly they store and deliver beers cold as warranted.
In business just over a year Holy City Distribution signed their first client Brew Lab at 2200 Heriot Street in downtown Charleston back in early 2021. Among their other partnerships include Tideland Brewing at 4155 Dorchester Road, Coffin Island in North Charleston, Oak Road Brewery in Summerville, and Wide Awake Brewing located at 101 Button Hall Avenue in a former Goose Creek fire station.
Among the brews they can for their various customers are a handful from BrewLab including Tropical Vibrations (sour guava ale), Surface Tension (light & crisp lager), Elliptical Gaze (amber colored IPA), Slice (tangerine infused ale), and their salute to Mexican lager the Chido.
A quick and tasty side bar (pun intended), BrewLab General Manager Tarah Gee is well positioned within the craft beer community in Charleston. When she’s not going by her alias the Barefoot Beertender, she is one of the editors of Hops, a free monthly publication dedicated to enhancing and marketing craft brewers in greater Charleston. She is active as well in the Charleston Brewery District. Safe to say, not many craft brew lovers in the Holy City are as versed in the industry as Tarah Gee.
For Tideland, Nice Cans can Banana Hammock (light straw-colored wheat beer with hints of banana & clove), Drop It Like Hops (an eccentric full bodied hazy IPA w/ smidge of tropical fruit), and Tide Juan On (a tangy light pale lager with a hint of maize & citrus). Nice Cans have packaged Cup of Clouds a hazy, mixed tropical juicy tasting New England inspired IPA and Problem Child (double citrus IPA) from Fam’s Brewing Co. on James Island.
Coming attractions include Creek Rising for Wide Awake, their signature blond ale which is by far the Goose Creek brewers most popular beer. Coming debut can releases are on tap for Tradesman Brewing and Edisto River.
Craft beer makers get into the brewing industry primarily because they have a passion to make beer. There are a few obstacles they have to overcome before they are dispensing beer at their brewhouses. As their beers begin to gain popularity, they often imagine they might attract a bigger customer base if they could reach a larger audience.
Craft brewing has become a multi-billion-dollar industry with the independent brewers giving the long-time monopolies a run for their money, and rightfully so because quite frankly the mavericks are producing more interesting beers that have mass appeal. With the help of companies like Holy City Distribution and Nice Cans who apparently provide service 24/7, brewers can navigate and service the local marketplace with confidence.
I encourage diehard Bud, Miller, Michelob, and Coors beer regulars to step outside your malted brew-zone and sample some of the aforementioned beers, whether at their brewhouses or when you see them on local shelves. Several of Holy City Distribution’s customers can be purchased in cans and or kegs at Bottles, Lowes Foods, House of Brews, and Big T’s Convenience Stores. Supporting local craft beer brewers always leaves a pleasant aftertaste!
One final note. While Holy City Distribution and Nice Cans service the craft beer brewing community in greater Charleston, they can serve specific entities as well. Partnering with their brewery customers they can provide unique labeling for events, festivals, organizations, and private businesses. Suppose you want to have a particular beer at an event and want your logo or image on the label as a promotional tool, Holy City Distribution and Nice Cans can make that happen.
If you’re picking up your favorite local craft beer from your community retailer or enjoying it at neighborhood pub, then you can thank Holy City Distribution. For more on Holy City Distribution visit https://www.holycitydist.com/ and for more on their canning operation visit https://www.nicecanning.com/