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A distributor's thoughts on trending categories and products (plus some weird liquor laws in PA)

Last updated October 26, 2023 · By Dylan Blake

Nick Wendowski and his wife own Stone's Beer & Beverage in Philly. PA liquor laws are weird (more on that below), and Nick's license allows him to serve 3 rungs in the booze ladder:

  • Beer store
  • Distributor
  • Exclusive beer brand rep

Given this, it was interesting to talk with him about the trends he's noticed over the last 6 months or so. (We also touched on some crazy PA liquor limitations). Here are takeaways from the conversation:

  • Craft drinkers are swinging back to more traditional beer styles. Customers want crisp lagers more than a double dry hopped IPA with fungus added. JK about the fungus, but you know what we mean.
  • But these craft drinkers aren't getting High Life or PBR—they want craft versions of the traditional styles.
  • Nick is also seeing a lot pull from malt-based versions of popular liquors. I.e. Fireball, 99 Bananas.
  • And then there are other malt-based things, like BuzzBallz. Laughable name, obviously, but they're selling.
  • RTD cocktails are obviously huge. Not breaking any news there.
  • The interesting thing is how they're sold and managed in PA. Because they're not malt-based, only liquor stores—which are all state-owned—can sell them.
  • But these state-owned stores aren't selling as much as they could be. It makes sense—they don't have a delivery infrastructure, they're not as efficient as if a business were running things, etc.
  • As a result, the state is missing out on a ton of RTD cocktail revenue. Nick said RTD cocktail revenue is 90% lower in PA than in neighboring states. Which is wild.

Check out the interview clip for more color on these trends and also a little more about PA liquor laws:

👉 And if you'd like to hear more from Nick check out this playlist on the Brave New Bar Youtube channel.