Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Interview: Adam Fine of Fresh Beer Inc.


Dogfish Head. Rogue. Avery. Shipyard. If you've had a beer by anyone of these breweries in South Florida you have one man to thank, Adam Fine, of Fresh Beer Inc. Fresh Beer Inc. brought craft beer to South Florida before anybody else. What started off as a way for Adam to get his own beers into stores, has turned into one of the most respected craft beer distribution companies in the country. Fresh Beer has come a long away as a company and in helping the craft beer community in South Florida. I decided to ask Adam a few questions to see where this all started and where we can expect it going in the future. If you ever see Adam out you should buy the man a beer. Take a minute to thank him for bringing you all the beers that you love.

photo courtesy of the Sun Sentinel

South Florida Beer Blog- What is your position at Fresh Beer and what does that involve?
Adam Fine- President and General Manager. I oversee all the operations. I work with our sales manager and sales team to keep everything moving forward on the sales side. On the operations side, I work with coordinating everything that has to do with the beer getting ordered, shipped, and delivered to your favorite accounts. I am also constantly working with our vendors on new product releases as well as looking for new products to bring into the market.

SFBB- When and why did Fresh Beer start?
AF- I started Fresh Beer in 1999 as a way to get my beer to the market. We wanted to start a microbrewery down here in South Florida and we quickly realized that we had no distribution channels to work with because the big distributors weren't interested in working with small brands and local breweries. I literally started the business delivering kegs out of the back of my pickup truck and developing a clientele of interested customers. After sometime, we started meeting more people who were running craft breweries that faced the same challenge getting into the Florida market. Having a distibution license, I was able to begin distibuting their beers alongside my own.

SFBB- Had you worked in the beer industry before Fresh Beer? Do you think it prepared you for what you are doing now?
AF- I had not worked in the beer industry before. While I was developing my business plan I was brewing professionally at Hops but that was the extent of my experience. That only helped me on the beer brewing side. I had no previous sales or business experience. Safe to say...I have learned a lot along the way!

SFBB- What do you think of the beer scene in South Florida?
AF- I think the South Florida beer scene has improved dramatically in the past 5-7 years however we are still many years behind most of the country. That being said... it continues to grow and surprise me.

SFBB- What do you think is lacking in the beer scene here and what do you think we can do to improve it?
AF- I think the biggest thing lacking in the industry is knowledge within the industry at almost every level. It has improved dramatically as well but again we are still dealing with owners/managers who really don't understand these products. I think the biggest thing that we as a group can do to improve it is to continue to ask for quality craft brewed beers where ever you might be eating, drinking and purchasing beer. What the consumer/customer wants will dictate what the proprietors will bring in to satisfy the demand. We have seen a lot of success over the last few years for our accounts that cater to the craft beer consumer... in fact throughout this recession many of our accounts have shown a tremedous amount of resilency and have continued to stay busy which says a lot for their customers and the products that they enjoy.


SFBB- I’ve heard that Fresh Beer was recently purchased by Brown Distributing. Can you talk a little about how this is going to help Fresh Beer and how things have gone so far with the transition?
AF- Yes, recently Fresh Beer was purchased by Brown Distributing. With any small business it is a struggle to compete against bigger more established companies. Brown brought a lot to the table that made this deal ultimately a very positive thing. First off, they kept Fresh Beer whole and are allowing us to continue providing the great service our customers are used to. We have a strong team and have been successful in this market but have always been limited to expand by money. Brown recognized this and they are providing the necessary components to help us get to the next level. The combination of our passion and sales with their knowledge of distribution, access to their network and personnel makes the future look very exciting.

SFBB- Will you be distributing any new beer companies and if so when we can expect to see them?
AF-We have a lot of brands that we are going to be working with but I don't want to let these out of the bag just yet! Let's just say there are several very exciting companies that will be headed to Florida in the next 6 months. There are a few others that we are also in talks with right now. One thing that I can talk about though is Shelton Bros. Import company. Shelton Bros. have a great lineup of some really interesting beers from all over the world. We have just started a special order program with some of our more specialty intensive clients and in about one month you should start seeing beers from Mikeller, Nogne-O, Achel, and Jolly Pumpkin as well as Canitillon and Ridgeway. Really great stuff! (ed. you can find all the great beers Shelton Bros. carries here. If you see one you like be sure to ask at your local store to order it from Fresh Beer.)

SFBB- Do any of the companies you distribute to now have any new releases coming out that people should be looking out for?
AF- Well, Fall is here so it is Pumpkin and Oktoberfest season! We just received our first shipment of Shipyard Pumpkinhead and Oktoberfest beers from Penn and Left Hand should be hitting our dock within a week or two. Dogfish Punkin is just around the corner as well. Don't forget about Avery Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest which is absolutely fantastic and there is a new beer from Shipyard under the Pugsley Signature Series...Smashed Pumpkin.

SFBB- Do you remember what your first beer was?
AF- I think my first sip was probably a Bud... but I was drinking Heineken and Miller Genuine draft in well you know I was a bit young at that time. We had no craft here in Florida back in those days! My first craft beer was when I lived in Texas...I was drinking Shiner Bock, St. Arnolds and Celis which was available everywhere there..not to mention Sierra and Anchor Liberty. That is when I learned about the craft movement and really saw it developing.

SFBB- What is your beer of choice these days?
AF- Of course, I'm always gonna drink an Eleven but I'm all over the place. I love variety and my choice depends on what kind of mood I'm in.

SFBB- If you were trying to introduce someone to craft beers what beer, that you carry, would be a good place for them to start?
AF- I always try and figure out what beer they have been exposed to and go from there. Typically, most people are turned off by very hoppy beers and very dark roasted beers so something like a belgian wit or a brown or amber ale is a good place to start. Sometimes though you meet someone who doesn't drink beer but they love coffee so starting with a rich roasted stout is actually a good place to start. I also like to figure out what food they like because if someone has a very diverse pallet you can take more risks when choosing for them.

SFBB- If you weren’t working at Fresh Beer, what would you be doing?
AF- I'd probably be brewing beer somewhere or working for a biotech company or both!

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