Nearly one year after Grapevine Craft Brewery decided to stop distributing its products, the locally-made beers are appearing back on store shelves.
Drinkers in North Texas can now find the brewery's Lakefire pale ale and Sir William's brown ale in six-packs of cans at retail stores, including Total Wine, Central Market, Whole Foods and other specialized beer stores. The brews are not available on draft anywhere other than the Grapevine Craft Brewery taproom.
According to founder Gary Humble, the brewery has ceased ties with large distributor Ben E. Keith.
"When you're with a distributor, they play a very large part in dictating which brands you put out," he says. "Being a self-distributing brewery again, we get to make those decisions and take those brands directly to retailers and ask them to buy them. We feel we have a renewed opportunity for our brewers to be creative."
A representative from Ben E. Keith was not immediately available for comment.
Texas brewers and distributors have something of a tense relationship, as proven by their disagreements over a controversial bill during this summer legislative session. (That bill became law on June 15.) There is also a case in which three Texas breweries sued the state over a 2013 law that allows distributors to sell a brewery's territorial rights for a profit.
When the nearly four-year-old Grapevine brewery announced it would cease distribution in August 2016, its beer was widely available across the region. A statement said, "It just doesn't make financial sense for us to continue distributing our brands at a loss." Humble's approach this time includes "staying small" and being "very strategic."
He expects to release a new recipe, Railcar double IPA (formerly part of its Brewers Reserve series), in cans in August, as well as Nightwatch oatmeal stout by the end of the year.
Grapevine Craft Brewery will continue to operate its contract-brewing subsidiary, North Texas Brewing Co., as well as release new beers on draft at its onsite taproom, Humble says. And he's hopeful he'll be able to sell packaged beer from there soon, too. Grapevine Craft Brewery and Deep Ellum Brewing Co. are awaiting a ruling in a suit they filed against the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission to be able to sell beer to-go.
"In the meantime, I feel like we're getting a second chance to put beer out," Humble says, "and you don't often get that."