Queue up “Another One Bites The Dust.” It seems another craft beer delivery service has gone under. Let’s Pour and their monthly beer club, Beer Boxer, have stopped shipping effective June 20th.
For those of you who are close enough to frequently sample from our beer fridge, you should be especially saddened by this news. Last October I signed Jeff up for Beer Boxer’s monthly deliveries as a birthday gift. After checking out the various clubs, Beer Boxer seemed to be the best, offering us an “East Coast Discovery” package that meant we wouldn’t be delivered a bunch of local beers, but would rather get to sample from breweries harder to find in Colorado. For months it worked great. A box of twelve beers would show up once a month, three beers each from four different breweries. All of the beers were highly rated and they came in a nice variety of styles. Best of all we got the opportunity to enjoy brews we couldn’t normal procure from great breweries such as Bell’s, Harpoon, Cigar City, Smuttynose, Ninkasi and others. It was fun to open the boxes each month and discover what we had received. Occasionally there were weather delays during especially cold or hot months, but overall it went very smooth. We were never disappointed with a beer that had gone bad or a broken bottle.
Unfortunately, it appears the box we received in June was our final shipment from Beer Boxer.
Beer Boxer was created as a monthly beer club spun off by Let’s Pour, an online retailer that sold craft beer and artisan wine, and on June 20th Let’s Pour announced suddenly that they would stop shipping effective at the end of the day. In an email sent from Raghav Kher, CEO of Let’s Pour, they blamed policy changes with their shipping company as the reason for the sudden closure. With the closure of Let’s Pour, so apparently went our monthly beer shipments from Beer Boxer.
Let’s Pour isn’t the first craft beer delivery service to go under. In 2012, Beer Jobber was advertising all over the Great American Beer Festival that they could ship your favorite hard-to-find festival beers right to your home. Their marketing exploded all over at GABF and in beer magazines such as Beer Advocate. It seemed they were doing fairly well, until suddenly in January 2013 Beer Jobber announced they were no longer processing orders. While it’s hard to verify, it seems their shortcoming may have been in circumventing the current three-tier alcohol distribution system. The basics of this system is that producers (i.e.: brewers) can sell their products only to wholesale distributors, who then sell to retailers, who then sell to consumers. States have various exceptions to this rule, the most common being an exception that allows a producer to act as a retailer and sell directly to the consumer without the need for a distributor. This is how our favorite local Colorado breweries can have their own taprooms, selling beers and growlers to their thirsty customers. However, Beer Jobber was advertising that they could provide “Fresh beer. Picked up from the brewery and delivered to your front door.” Unfortunately if this motto was in-fact their business model, they were skipping the distribution tier by taking the product right from the producer to the consumer. This most likely was a big factor in their demise.
We don’t know for certain if it was the business model or the complicated alcohol distribution laws that made Let’s Pour and Beer Boxer cease operations. It seems unlikely that they didn’t have the funds to keep operating, given how a highly rated beer can be easily sold at a high mark-up to beer lovers who otherwise can’t get their hands on a bottle. One would think the profitability of these types of beer retailers would be good, if priced correctly. The challenge was likely in navigating the ever-changing laws surrounding distribution and shipping alcohol, especially when you’re reliant on the policies of a third-party shipping company to deliver your product. Regardless of the reason behind the sudden closure of Let’s Pour and Beer Boxer, it’s a loss for those of us beer geeks who were willing to pay an inflated price to get our hands on those unique and delicious brews.
And for those of you who enjoyed the variety offered in our beer fridge the last few months, I’m afraid to say it’s back to BYOB for now.