“Whale” Sales – Limited Release Marketing

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Rare Beers

Limited Releases.  Rares.  Whales.  Trophies. Collectors items.  Investments. Beers.

Jester King

Jester King’s Atrial Rubicite

Call them what you will, these brands are unique tools used within the industry to not only generate revenue and brand recognition, but to increase velocity for the brand the entire year. Some production companies have built their model on limited releases, with breweries such as Jester King and Side Project. Many brands are even brewery release only for some producers, in states where that is legal.

Perennial LogoOthers have core lines that are solid revenue generators, and limited releases that boost the company overall in brand recognition and revenue, such as Perennial, Bells and Cigar City.

Then there are some breweries that have core brands, seasonals and limited releases that sustain the company, but a limited release that is the true highlight of the year brand wise, such as Goose Island and their Bourbon County series.

While seasonal brands come, whether it be bi-monthly, every quarter, or trimester, there is more regularity to those lines of product.  The supply is usually enough to cover the entire distribution footprint of the supplier reasonably for the duration of the season, with things tailing off inventory wise at the end of the season, in transition to the next. These transitions are a definite learning curve for younger breweries, but a vital part of the business for many. New Belgium Brewing has a solid core brand line up and has artfully utilized the seasonal brands, limited release brands and special release brands all at once to maintain an constant market presence of consistency and bringing the consumer what they want in something new.

New Belgium Side Trip

Side Trip Seasonal

New Belgium La Folie

Lips of Faith La Folie

New Belgium Ben & Jerry's

Special Release Collaboration Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramal Brownie Brown Ale

Where  limited releases, can have any schedule that the production company would like to utilize and the volume produced is usually quite small in comparison to a seasonal.  These brands are usually allocated out by either the producer or the distributor, or both, based on the retail accounts support of that producers brand year long.

Anyone that has spent any significant time in the industry on the production or distribution tier knows and understands all of this.  The general public, the consumers, know that there have limited windows of time in which to purchase, limited bottle numbers allowed to purchase, and that if they miss their chance they have to wait or look for local trade markets or the illegal yet very popular secondary sales and shipping markets.  The secondary markets are never a good idea, because it is in all honestly black market trading with no regulation other than self regulation, and simply because it is against multiple laws. It’s rarely enforced though, which is why so many people do it.

Retailers, both on and off premises, are wise to be aware of the fact that supporting the brands year round are what gain them their allocations of the limited releases.  With so many new brands, and new releases, and seasonals, it is easy for a retailer, especially an on premises account, to cherry pick what is new and shiny out of the offerings from all of their distributors and rarely have a core brand on tap all year long.  If a retailer does that, they are simply following consumer demand, because in todays rotation nation market of beer handles, the consumer wants what is new, what is shiny, and what they can’t get anywhere else.  So retailers, following that mentality, have swayed away from the core brands of many suppliers, but want the limited releases.

Herein lies the conundrum:

From a producers end, the more overall volume, which is driven by the core and seasonal brands, increases the ability to producer a larger volume of the limited release, should they decide to do so.

From the distributors end, the accounts that support the brands the most, are going to reap the rewards from doing so and benefit moreso from a limited release allocation than an account that only wants the special releases.

So the prodcuers and the disrtibutors are very aligned with how they want for these rarer beers to be sold. The division comes at the retail and consumer level.

The consumers on their end want the limited release, they also want all the limited releases, and all the seasonals, and with so many brands, and so few taps, regardless the size of the account, the core brands are being cannibalized at the expense of the limited.

The retailers on their end, are typically following in suit with their consumers, occasionally bringing a core brand on, unless a core brand is already a money making, volume sales producing brand in that market.

So the retailers and the consumers have to remember that increased core brand support typically leads to increased limited release volume, thus making everyone happier.

Cigar City Hunahpu

Cigar City’s Hunahpu

Does your brand not have that strongly desired limited release yet?  Do not worry, many do not.  Many brands have popular seasonals, and core brands.  Most of the limited released brands started small batch because they were run on a pilot system, received welcoming reviews, and for one reason or another, the brewery decided to keep it limited. In majority of the cases, the scarcity is a determined or forced scarcity on the part of the brewery, which is the marketing technique that helps to sustain the demand.  Barrel aging a beer is a good way to have a factor that is not merely “we decided to make that much” due to the number of barrels available and the space to cellar them for as long as needed.  Regardless, having a “whale” is not a neccesary thing for succeeding as a producer, however, there is no denying that the limited release brand in the portfolio provides a nice bump in both revenue and brand recognition.

Especially with every media outlet imaginable creating their own Top 10 lists of something these days…. “Top 10 Shower Beers”“Top 10 Lawnmower Beers”“Top 10 Beers to pair with your Grill this Summer”.. “Top 10 Beers to make a Top 10 list to”… ok that last one is a headline I just made up.

No matter what tier you are in, the limited release brands are worth utilizing to help maximize your profit potentials through the year, there are many ways to use the increased demand for these brands to leverage sales in some of your slower moving areas as well.

We're Here to Help

Dear friends in the alcoholic beverage industry,

As we as an industry, nation and planet collectively try to navigate this unprecedented period the coronavirus has brought us, We’d like you to know that we at Craft Beverage Consultants (the other CBC!) are here to answer any question you may have (or not know you have) about not just surviving this time but positioning yourself to thrive as soon as social distancing measures allow your business to function at full capacity again.

If you schedule a free 60-minute phone or video conferencing consultation with me or any of my 11 highly specialized colleagues, we’ll help you figure out any of your immediate and/or longterm business needs, or “everything but the staffing,” as we like to say. We’re not high-pressure sales kind of people, especially these days, so you don’t have to worry about fending off annoying pitches. Make an appointment on our website or Facebook page, or just call us the old-fashioned way at 314-768-0220.

Our experts have a combined 150 years in the alcoholic beverage industry, with deep knowledge in everything from sales and distribution, production, and regulatory compliance to marketing, package design, event planning, IT, (social) media, hospitality, and even values-based executive coaching. 

For example, we can coach you through this season when chain accounts have canceled their spring, in some cases, fall resets and distributors have drastically cut orders. Our director of business strategy and compliance can save you money – now – on excise taxes, caution you to avoid naming your beers in ways that risk alienating your buyers (Wuhan Wheat? Coronavirus Cream Ale? Groan. No.), and secure TTB approval for the tastefully named beers you do make. Our creative director and web team can get your e-commerce site up and running and launch a social media campaign that keeps you top of mind for current and future customers. Our director of storytelling can put you in front of the press so you can tell your story to your community. 

Once you’re ready, we can look forward together. Now is the time to talk about post-virus. We all suspect the legal landscape to look different. But how? And how do you prepare yourself in a way that positions you to charge out of the gate ready to maximize the potential and profit of whatever the “new normal” turns out to be? Please get in touch so we can talk about it. 

CBC’s roster includes local and regional clients like Epic Brewing, Logboat Brewing, Piney River Brewing, SudWerk Brewing, Waves Cider and Common Cider Company, just to name a few.  The agency was founded in 2004 by Jacob and Beth Halls, formerly known as Convergence Consulting; Rick Laxague, joined as a partner in charge of sales, marketing and distribution consulting in 2019. 

Rick hase close to 20 years of experience, a bulk of which was with Crescent Crown Distributing in Arizona. His last role there was Area Sales Manager for the dedicated craft beer division, coaching and leading a sales team to be nationally recognized. In early 2014 Rick helped take a regional brewery national as their Director of National Accounts and increase that segment of their business from 30,000 cases to almost 300,000 cases in two years, an increase that equates to $4.8 million in IRI dollar sales. 

Co-founder Jacob Halls brings 17 years of experience in regulatory compliance, business strategy, marketing and craft brand management to the company. In his former position as craft brand manager for the N.H. Scheppers Distributing Company in Columbia, Missouri, Jacob helped lead his team to winning the 2016 Distributor of the Year award from New Belgium and to a nomination for the Brewers Association’s Distributor of the Year award. Jacob is also the founder and director of the South East Craft Beer Fest and several other industry specific charitable event marketing festivities. Beth Halls is Director of Business Operations and Coordinator of Charity Operations for the festivals and events run by CBC, such as the South East Craft Beer Fest, MO Bacon & Bourbon, and many more. 

Again, please reach out to us for anything.  CBC can be reached at (314) 768-0220 or at

We look forward to meeting/talking soon.


Rick Laxague, Jacob Halls, and Beth Halls