Interview With Alaskan Brewery Rep Shawn Reupke
College City Beverage works with some pretty remarkable people. From customers at accounts to our own team members, it’s a great work environment. Brewery Reps are a unique group of individuals who hold the responsibility of communicating between their brewery (whether it’s in Minnesota or Alaska) and distributors like us. In the first part of our interview series, we want to introduce you to Shawn Reupke, the Brewery Rep for Alaskan Brewing Company
What’s your history in the industry?
I have been in the beverage industry since the day I turned 21; I spent my last three semesters in Eau Claire, WI working with the local Miller distributor building and executing events and promotions throughout the Chippewa Valley. After graduation I moved back to Minneapolis and spent nearly 5 years working with JJ Taylor where I honed my craft as the Sales Rep for all of the Downtown Minneapolis On-Premise Accounts. When I heard Alaskan Brewing Company was coming to town, I threw my name in the hat and was lucky enough to earn the position of Regional Market Manager where I have helped open up nearly 30 markets throughout a 4 state region over the last 5 years.
What is a typical day for you?
I wish I could say that I had an actual typical day. However, because I’m covering such a large territory, every day is different. I would say my roles are really split up; when I am working from home I spend a lot of time on the computer tracking sales numbers and distribution, making sure orders are placed on time and that there is an adequate amount of beer on order to supply the thirsty folks of the Midwest, and I make sure the information that is provided to me in regards to events and promotions are getting to the powers to be.
When I am out in the market, it is always different; some days I might be focusing on Off-Premise locations where I might be trying to gain another product package in the cooler or trying to line up a Beer of The Month or some other kind of sale. If I am working in On-Premise locations, one of the hardest things to do besides from actually telling our story and making the sale of a new draft handle is making sure you are going to the accounts at the correct time when the decision makers are around, or not showing up when the bar is packed.
What do you look for in your distribution partners?
We look for partners that want to build a long term partnership that is beneficial for both parties involved. I can only be so many places at one time, so that is why we try as hard as we can to really show our distributors what the Alaskan Brewing Company is all about, and what we strive to do.
We really try to find people who can tell our amazing story to the streets; that is why every other year we try to take a handful of sales reps and managers from our states up to Juneau to see the brewery first hand and all that really goes into getting our beer the nearly 3,000 miles back down to the Midwest!
How often do you get to sample new beers?
This is definitely one of the perks of the job; we traditionally release a handful of new beers each year. Looking at 2016, we will have three brand new Rough Draft Export releases, 5 Pilot Series releases, of which one has never been released before along with two new seasonals in addition to a new year round offering in March. So to sum up your question, quite a bit!
How can a brewery differentiate itself in the growing market?
I think the way we differentiate ourselves from all the other 4,000+ breweries and growing in the United States is to tell our amazing story. When we opened up in 1987, we were the 67th brewery in the United States and the only one in Alaska.
Fast forward to 2015, there are over 4,000 breweries and over 20 in Alaska. With that being said, we are the only Alaska-based brewery that is shipping our beer over 3,000 miles to the Midwest.
Fun fact: We are the only United States brewery that ships their beer 1,000 miles by water to get to the United States. I think another way we stand a part is our dedication to clean, consistent, and quality malt beverages.
The hard part isn’t creating a great beer, it is brewing that great beer week in and week out to the exact same criteria that you created that beer on, and we can proudly say we have been doing that for over 29 years!
How is each beer marketed as an individual and as part of a whole?
We really try to tie each one of our beer back to either a way of life in Alaska or some kind of historical brewing significance of Alaska. Case in point, Alaskan Amber was based on a turn of the century Gold Rush era that was being brewed over 100 years ago.
Smoked Porter, the most awarded beer ever at the history of the Great American Beer Festival, was styled by the Porters that the miners were drinking after those long and cold days in the mines.
Our Winter Ale pays homage to Captain Cook’s exploration of the Northwest Passage where his brewer on board brewed a beer with Spruce Tips, since it was high in Vitamin C, in hopes of preventing the spread of scurvy!
What are you looking forward to in the world of beer?
I would say that I am personally looking forward to how far the box can be pushed when it comes to the products being put out in the market. I love seeing every person’s own interpretation of a specific style or how crazy of a twist can they put on it.
What is your best perk as a brewery rep?
Free beer, definitely not going to lie about that one.
What is your go-to beer recommendation?
Hands down my two favorite Alaskan beers are our Winter Ale, which is an Old English Ale brewed with Spruce Tips, and Perseverance Ale, which was our 25th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout. Word on the street is that it might be coming back for our 30th Anniversary next year!
What do you like about Alaskan Brewing Company?
The best thing I like about our brewery is that there is no other brewery like ours in the country. Just looking at where we are located, the obstacles that we have to go through to get our beer out of Juneau, the amazing beers that Tyler and crew are brewing and the true family atmosphere that comes from the company is unbelievable!
How can we get a tour?
Hop on a boat or plane and join us in Juneau, AK! We would love to pour you a pint!
Some of our team members were lucky enough to head out to Alaskan Brewing Company earlier this year. Check out their photos!