Roanoke’s only microbrewery is looking to downsize — the size of its beers, that is.
But switching from a 22-ounce bottle to a 12-ounce bottle is not as easy as one might think.
Smaller bottles mean more bottles, which will take up more space, take longer to hand-fill and require more labels and more packaging, including cardboard carriers so they can be sold in six-packs.
And that takes more money.
Which is why Roanoke Railhouse’s founder and owner, Steve Davidson, began a few weeks ago selling shares of the company to raise money for the change-over. Davidson would not disclose any financial information about his business.
“We want to capitalize on what we’ve created, and that’s going to take money,” Davidson said.
His brewery, located in an old Dr Pepper bottling plant in South Roanoke, put out its first batch of its signature beer, Track 1, in 2009.
It was first available on draft at several local restaurants. In 2010 Railhouse began hand-bottling its brews in 22-ounce bottles that are distributed to grocery stores, convenience stores and specialty stores. Earlier this year, Railhouse began contracting with a mobile canning company to package the beer in 16-ounce cans, also available in stores.
But the 22-ounce bottles and the 16-ounce cans aren’t very appealing to some restaurants that only serve bottled beer. And despite a marketing campaign that encourages drinkers to share the bottle with a friend, consumers haven’t responded well to the bottle because they think it’s too big for one person, Davidson said.
Convenience and grocery stores have a hard time displaying the larger sizes alongside 12-ounce beers, said John Swanson, sales manager at Valley Distributing, which handles Railhouse’s account.
“The 22-ounce bottle is a tough sell, especially with convenience stores,” Swanson said.
Six-packs of 12-ounce bottles sell the best, he said.
Swanson also pointed out that Railhouse is facing local competition that it didn’t have when it first started.
Beers from Parkway Brewing in Salem and Sunken City Brewery in Hardy are sold in stores in 12-ounce bottles and cans.
“You have to have the packaging to compete with your competition,” Swanson said. “Not having 12-ounce bottles really puts you at a disadvantage.”
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