In the craft beer industry, working with a wholesaler is an art that very few people talk about, observed Chad Heath, an instructor in San Diego State University’s Business of Craft Beer program.
“The industry is full of fantastic people that are very good at making very good beer, but very few really check all the boxes when it comes to price, placement and promotion,” said Heath. And that’s what his three-week course, The Business of Distribution, is all about — checking those three critical boxes. “I talk to these topics and show cases where breweries nailed all these elements, and also speak about breweries that missed the mark.”
Heath answered a few questions about his career and his course, which starts Thursday, Sept. 6.
Please give us a brief overview of your education and career.
I graduated SDSU with a B.A. in business management in 1993. From there I had a nice career in automotive care, then fell into Stone Brewing in 2008 where I started as a sales manager manning the distribution arm of the sales team. When I left in 2018, we had grown the division from 300,000 cases to approximately 4 million cases. We distributed Stone and 35 other brands of beer throughout Southern California. It was a terrific ride. In 2016 I was recruited to run Kegstar, a keg rental company that started in Australia. And now, as of September 2018, I’m a senior director of sales and logistics at Karl Strauss Brewing Company.
How did you come to be an instructor with SDSU’s Business of Craft Beer program?
Bill Sysak and I worked together at Stone where he referred me to teach a course. I jumped at the opportunity.
What are some key takeaways of your course, The Business of Distribution?
I’m not here to teach people how to make beer. I’m here to teach people how to make money with their brewery should they choose to work with a wholesaler. You will learn how to choose a wholesaler, market your brand, negotiate a contract, and ultimately work with a wholesaler to reach success.
Does the course involve group activities?
At the end of the class we break into groups and they each present a mock (or real) brewery to me as if they were pitching to a wholesaler. I give candid and real-time feedback about how they do.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
The people and the challenge. The people in this industry are fantastic, but the market is shifting so it’s becoming more and more challenging to be successful — all the more reason people should attend this course.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Storytelling, answering questions, and providing more than just content. I really try to make it enjoyable and relevant to the students.
What advice you have for anyone wanting to enter this field and/or take your course?
If you want to make money in craft beer, this is a good course for you to attend.
When/where did you have your first great beer, what was it, and how was your mind blown?
I can’t really put my finger on it. I drank Sierra Nevada and Boston Beer in college (along with Corona … don’t hate) and have always enjoyed interesting beverages and food. In my role at Stone I was always looking for the next “interesting beer.” Beer can be made technically perfect but making interesting beers are what I’m into. Push the envelope and make something interesting and different. Very hard today!
What are your top three favorite beers?
My go-to beer is either Stone IPA or Alesmith .394. Aside from that I honestly have too many to list. I love all sorts of beer. Black Tuesday from The Bruery. Almost any Fruitlands beer, most everything from Bitter Brothers, Two Hearted Ale, oh my gosh. I could go on for hours.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to own a car wash. I owned a detailing company for 12 years and learned there was a better way to use my brain. LOL. I would love to be a newscaster, professional race car driver, or a chef.