Have you ever thought about where your beer comes from? This isn’t a question on where the beer was made – rather, let’s talk about how the beer you have in your hand made it to your favorite local watering hole for you to enjoy. Walk with me in the shoes of two local sales representatives.
Eureka Heights Brewing Co.
Brent Davis is the driving force behind Eureka Heights’ sales, branding, social media and so much more.
Before venturing out on a few stops, Davis organized our day based off places he absolutely had to stop at first, then he prioritized his deliveries – yes, that’s also part of the job – noted which accounts only took appointments on that day and maximized his time by organizing by area and region. His itinerary also included possibility.
“I’ll put more than I can probably accomplish, that way I push myself to do more,” he said.
Our first stop lead us to Heights Bier Garten off of North Shepherd. Upon arrival, there was a line to see the managers – many there to pitch a new product(s) or check on their lines.
While waiting in line, two distributers wagered with each other on who should go next – one distributer had a doctor’s appointment and needed to make it across town. The two agreed on a deal, shook hands and set a timer of 20 minutes of face time with the managers. An alarm even went off to let the distributer know his time was up.
“Certain bars and restaurants will only meet on certain days,” Davis said. “So you have to take that into factor when you plan your day. You can get to a certain place and the line can be a factor into how you plan out your day.”
The line at Heights Bier Garten moved us to go make a delivery at King’s Bier Haus on T.C Jester Boulevard. Davis unloaded his keg from the car, knocked on the back door, maneuvered through a working lunch kitchen, placed his keg in the refrigerated inventory room and made his way to chat with the manager.
“Days really vary based off of your relationship with a customer,” Davis said. “Sometimes you can go in and pitch them new beers you want to push, something that’s just brewed or something that has limited availability,” he said. “With laid back customers, or ones that you have a great relationship with, you can usually walk behind the bar to check your line and let them know what their inventory looks like for you and grab their order.”
We made our way back to Heights Bier Garten and a line awaited us again. We eventually made it to see the managers and they wanted to chat with Brent on the brewery’s recent winnings at the Great American Beer Festival. The managers chatted a good bit about anything and everything and a patient Davis eventually got to pitch them their award winning beer, a beer that they only had one keg left of and something that was freshly brewed. The managers placed an order of two kegs and they worked out delivery details.
When it comes to pros and cons of the job, Davis enjoys the relationships and friendships he gets to make.
“Beyond all of the friendships I’ve made, it’s cool to see Eureka on tap at all of the bars and places that I already liked to drink at.”
On top of that, Davis enjoys taking things he has interest in – music, street art, standup comedy – and turning them into events at the brewery.
On the downside, competition from national and regional accounts are a burden to overcome, along with long and late hours at night and on weekends, but the worst being staff turnover at bars.
Town In City Brewing Co.
Hired in January, Tony Fontenot is anything but a new chip on the block in the beer sales world – coming from the corporate world, previously with Houston Distributers, and pushing big beer brands like Miller. Fontenot was with Houston Distributers for 15 years.
When it comes to planning out daily routes, Fontenot takes a more consistent route.
“I run like a train,” Fontenot said. “I run the same account route every day of the week. On Wednesdays, my accounts know exactly when I’ll be walking in the door. If I have a sampling or tasting I need to schedule on a certain day, that can change up my route and I’ll let my accounts know if I won’t be in or if I’ll be late. It’s important for your customers to see you.”
Our first stop was at Fuzzy’s Taco on West Gray. This is a notable account, as Town In City is the very first local brewery on tap and that’s across the board for the company – the company strictly deals with corporate accounts and Fuzzy’s general manager is a relationship Fontenot has maintained.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw Tony walking through the door with a Town In City shirt on,” Fuzzy’s general manager Dennis Jones said. “If Tony was representing the beer, I knew it had to be good and it was.”
After Fuzzy’s, we stopped at Little Woodrow’s, The Harp, and Patio Bar on Richmond. Manager Dennis Jones’ response on Fontenot’s switch to Town In City was a reoccurring reaction response from all of the managers we met that day.
Being in the corporate life for 15 years and coming over to a small craft brewery is quite the switch, but Fontenot says it’s the best decision he’s ever made.
“The corporate life was a good fit for me for those 15 years,” Fontenot said. “Here, I have a better quality of life. Before, there were so many brands and each one wanted you to promote a different program and each program had too many details. Here, I have one portfolio of beers. Justin and Steve are the best guys I’ve worked for. After all of these years, I feel appreciated.”
Staff turnover at bars are the biggest factor Fontenot says he has to overcome.
“You can put in countless hours and hard work with a manager and then the next time you walk in, they can be gone,” he said. “It’s like you have to start over and sometimes the new management may not warm up to you, even after all the previous work you put in.”
Illegal contracts and deals are also something Fontenot says is an issue, and that they happen all of the time – especially when a new bar opens up, needs funds for a keg box and a company comes in to fund the box with the “deal” of only putting their beers on tap.
All of Fontenot’s corporate training is being put to good use. Now, Fontenot finds himself in a teaching role for things that worked well on the corporate side and giving that knowledge to new and upcoming sales representatives – something he finds true joy in.