Published on April 14, 2023
Brew Gentlemen operates with growth in mind. As a craft beer facility producing just north of 2,000 bbl’s each year, they have plenty of product to move, and plenty of room to scale, but finding effective systems for accomplishing that was a challenge in the early days.
The team at Brew Gentlemen has the tough task of distributing in Pennsylvania, a market known for its layered distribution channels. Unlike larger, more established markets, where breweries either self-distribute direct to licensees or lean on a distributor for the complete movement of their product, PA finds itself balancing both simultaneously.
This means that Production Manager Rob Houston and his team are responsible for self-distributing their kegs to local buyers, who take those kegs further out regionally and sell them to licensee locations of their own at a markup. This layering of channels leads to three or four sets of hands touching a keg before it gets tapped, leading to a dense fogginess for managing turn times and loss rates.
In the beginning, Rob and his team struggled to find the insights needed, as the complex systems in place — and the limited distribution visibility due to them — distorted visibility. When asked what their biggest issues were as distribution first picked up, Rob said, “the lack of knowing whether any problems actually existed… We had absolutely no way to judge.”
They assumed that kegs were taking longer to return than expected — or that they weren’t returning at all — but they had no way to validate those assumptions. What they knew was that keg reorders had become the norm, eating up far more of the brewery budget than desired.
It became clear that an inventory management system would be needed if growth were to be taken seriously, and so began Rob’s search.
Eyes In The Sky
In the summer of 2021, Brew Gentlemen contacted Kegshoe to learn more about their keg tracking platform. Within a few short weeks, they had the software set up, their kegs labelled, and all necessary data inputted.
The setup process was smooth, all things considered. Getting all of the data inputted, all kegs stickered, and all of our teammates trained was much easier than expected.
The first few months of usage were focused on data capture — collecting the insights necessary to validate the assumptions they’d been making in years prior was what mattered most to Rob. “It allowed us to establish benchmarks. To clearly understand how our fleet was actually performing, and to then make decisions based on where improvements were required.”
With data now available, the team was able to dial in their keg locations, assessing how certain units were progressing through the distribution process. “It allowed us to assess how quickly our kegs were coming back, right down to an account level. This meant we could compare the performance of one account to the next, and hold the buyers who were mistreating our kegs accountable”, Rob added.
Beyond location data of their kegs, Brew Gentlemen was also able to dial in other key operational insights, including product quality maintenance with Kegshoe Batches and fleet development planning with Kegshoe Utilization Reporting. “The support team has done a great job of offering useful suggestions, making sure we were getting the most value possible out of the platform and reporting”, said Rob.
At its core, Rob made clear that the entire reason for setting up a Keg Tracking platform at Brew Gentlemen was so that the team didn’t need to continue making growth efforts blindly. “We had a lot of ideas about what might be happening on the inventory front — from keg and product performance to steel requirements — and Kegshoe provided us the confirmation we needed to improve.”
The Future Is Bright
As Brew Gentlemen looks forward to an exciting future filled with growth, they’re thankful to have a brewery toolkit capable of powering decision-making.
The team relies on an ERP for their daily operations, finding inventory success with Kegshoe thanks in part to its advanced capabilities. “ Having inventory tooling in addition to our ERP was a bit of a no-brainer”, Rob noted.
As we discussed what the future has in store for his team, Rob doubled down on growth, saying, “We’ve been leveraging Kegshoe data to power our growth plans. Knowing what our kegs are doing so that we can make intelligent decisions — from determining how many kegs we need in the current market, to kegs required for expansion, and beyond — is front and centre for us.”
Closing things out, Rob wanted to offer one piece of advice to his fellow brewers: “It's worth it”, he said, “There's a cost associated with using the product — sure — but if you can have a better idea of what’s happening with your steel, a better idea of where things are at and how you can utilize them, the system pays for itself very, very easily.”
About Brew Gentlemen
Run by a small team with devoted attention to detail, Brew Gentlemen is recognized as a leading brewery both locally and nationally.
Founded by two college friends who dropped everything to carve their own path in the beer industry, Brew Gentlemen has developed their reputation within the Pittsburgh brewing scene for making soft, balanced beers - best exemplified by their flagship IPA, General Braddock’s.
Based in the historic steel town of Braddock, twenty minutes east of downtown Pittsburgh, along the Monongahela River. Located in a renovated electrical supply storefront and warehouse in the shadow of the still-operating Edgar Thomson Works, the first Bessemer steel plant built by Andrew Carnegie.
You can learn more about Brew Gentlemen, their founding team, their current lineup, and upcoming events on their website.
To learn more about Kegshoe Keg Tracking, contact our team today.