Last month it was a handful of Massachusetts distributors that banded together: Blue-silver distribs Burke, Atlas, Merrimack Valley, Commercial Distributors and Colonial Beverage created a strategic coalition to provide one point of contact for suppliers and statewide distribution. Now an alliance of independent distributors across Minnesota and the Dakotas are doing something similar…

We’re starting to see red. Not often, and not in overall segment growth, of course, but in terms of YTD case sales growth for a few key craft brands. Fat Tire, Boston Lager, even Sam Adams seasonals and Sierra Nevada seasonals are either slightly down or without their fair share of growth, per IRI numbers, some even with a few more points of market distribution…

Friday we broke news of New Belgium having sent letters to distributors in Ohio and Michigan seeking feedback on operations and markets. Those didn’t signify slam-dunk deals (though Brian “BK” Krueger admits Michigan’s on for early 2012). The letters are actually part of a new, lengthy discovery process NBB now makes when looking at new territories…

**Alert**

Here’s a State of the Union on one of those regionally strong brands we keep hearing about: Atlanta’s SweetWater. Other states want, but Georgia certainly loves its homeboys. SweetWater’s 420 Pale Ale is up almost 30% on a base of 90,200 cases per IRI latest numbers, strongly driven by existing outlets…

Andrew Goeler, A-B’s vice president of import, craft and specialty brands, resigned from Craft Brewers Alliance’s Board of Directors on seemingly abrupt but completely civil terms last week.

Will more beer be branded like Goose Island’s 312 across other major U.S. area codes? CBD was tipped off last week to A-B filing for word marks that correspond with some 14 major metropolitan markets. We dug in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database and indeed found the filings, including some for 619 (San Diego), 702 (Las Vegas), 303 (Denver), 415 (San Francisco), 216 (Cleveland), even 314 (St. Louis), among others. You’ll notice there are some very savvy beer towns in there…

We were just hangin’ with World Class’s Jim Schembre last weekend here in sunny (and humid) Austin. Dropping into a newly minted craft brewer was naturally on the menu. After some shop talk it was apparent that he and founders of said brewery had a difference of philosophy on pricing…

The National Restaurant Association says the U.S. fast food market is something like a $170 billion industry. Imagine if craft tapped into that. We’re not saying it’s happening – at least, not anytime soon. But Sonic’s senior VP of business planning and purchasing just announced a new beer and wine-centric concept to roll out soon in Miami called Sonic Beach…

There are several ways to get to Dogfish Head world headquarters in picturesque Milton, Delaware, formerly Draper-King Cole cannery complex extraordinaire. You can’t get there by commercial plane, but you also don’t have to take your editor’s means of two Greyhounds and a taxi…

Boston Beer chief Jim Koch took the stage at the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators (NCSLA) and as usual produced some memorable quotes. In speaking on a panel with Constellation Brands chairman Richard Sands and Patron Spirits coo John McDonnell, Jim was the first to speak…

We know that craft has grown 10-15% for the last few years, depending on your source. But 1700+ brewers aren’t all gobbling the same share. And certainly the biggest guys aren’t growing at the same rate as the regional or even more local breweries further down the list, and there are sweet spots and speed bumps throughout…

You’ve got several different means of expanding, right? You’ve got the Sierra Nevada realm of opening another production facility, possibly across the nation. Or you add on incrementally in your backyard, provided you have the space; Boulevard might be an extreme example there. Or you contract brew, usually by utilizing extra space from an older regional brewer, like Brooklyn at Matt Brewing Co. Or Schlafly doing cans at Stevens Point in Wisconsin. But what if you don’t have any land to expand on, and don’t want to spend the money to build a whole new facility? And what if the traditional means of contract brewing don’t appeal to you? Maybe you want a little more control over the brewing process.

What Missouri decision, you say? The one we mentioned yesterday from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri Central Division, wherein Missouri’s Missouri Beverage Company sued importer Shelton Brothers for violation of the Missouri franchise law. The closer we looked at it, the more we realized what it signifies: A significant win for suppliers in the ongoing struggle over franchise laws. If this decision has precedence – and indeed, Missouri has cited to New Jersey’s case law for its similar franchise statute, so New Jersey likely does the same – distribs might start scrutinizing state codes more closely. Because according to last week’s decision on Missouri Beverage Company v. Shelton Brothers, the distributor and supplier never had a franchisor-franchisee business relationship at all.

Things you’ve been hearing a lot about lately: Mikkeller, the seemingly omnipresent brand powered by one nomadic Dane. New York City’s Birreria, the rooftop Italian beer garden brewing with Dogfish and Italy’s Baladin and Del Borgo. And CBD’s sodding, continual coverage of hot pockets of these “crafty” imports, or the growing cadre of (at least comparatively) smaller-batch imports that are at least seemingly driven by consumers that also drink American craft. (Whew.) Consumers looking for something more obscure. But you want numbers and quantification. You want to know what so-called crafty import brands are hot, and why, not just big-picture stuff. So here’s the deal.