OKLAHOMA CITY —
Oklahoma brewers are working to broaden their markets to Arkansas and other states as the demand for variety in craft beer grows.
Wes Alexander directs sales and marketing for Marshall Brewing Co. in Tulsa. Recently, he spent a day in Little Rock meeting with his wholesaler and checking out sales prospects in the city.
"While Oklahoma is a great market and we enjoy continued growth in the home market, our success is dependent on regional growth," Alexander told The Oklahoman (http://is.gd/cj7hOc). He has paid a number of visits to Little Rock in the past couple of years, along with Hot Springs and Fayetteville.
Marshall Brewing currently sells in four Kansas cities and two in southwest Missouri. Alexander said he wants to increase its 2013 sales so that 34 percent of sales are out of state. In 2012, the brewery had 12 percent of its sales to outlets outside of Oklahoma.
Other craft breweries in Oklahoma are adopting a similar strategy. About 11 percent of 2012 sales of Choc Beer were to out-of-state outlets, company President Zach Prichard. Prichard said he expects that number to increase to about 15 percent in 2013.
Choc, which is based in Krebs, sells its beers in Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and the Nashville, Tenn., area. The brewery is planning to add more states and expand to international markets.
"Opening in new geographic markets is exciting and necessary," Prichard said. "As our brewery has developed we have shifted toward even more experimental and progressive styles.
"There are many beer fans who enjoy these beers; at the same time, there are not a lot in any one given market. To get our beer to these drinkers, we must be in many markets," he said.
Oklahoma City's Mustang Brewing Co., President Tim Schoelen said his company is three years along in a five-year plan to sell its beer in all of Oklahoma's bordering states. So far, the list includes Kansas and Arkansas, with expansion into southwest Missouri planned for later this year.
Schoelen recently purchased the OKCity Brewing cooperative, which serves as a home base for his brewing operations.
"Increased distribution is a business strategy, not about vanity," Schoelen said, noting that less than 5 percent of Mustang sales were outside Oklahoma in 2012. He expects that number to increase to as much as 20 percent by 2014.
Tulsa's Prairie Artisan Ales is run by brothers Chase and Colin Healey. Last year, they entered a distributorship deal with Shelton Bros., a Massachusetts-based fine beer importer. That arrangement will see Prairie distributed in roughly a dozen states this year, including New York and California. Prairie Artisan brews will also be in Denmark.
Chase Healey said the idea that the product he makes in Oklahoma will have a national and international reach is something to be proud of.
"It's an honor, really," he said. "I'm no more talented a brewer than anyone else in the state, so to give people that 'This came from Oklahoma?' moment is pretty awesome."
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com
Copyright The Associated Press