Last December, Josh Landan, most famous locally for founding and subsequently selling Saint Archer Brewery, returned to the beer industry by establishing Harland Brewing. But he didn’t stop there. He also opened a beverage distributor servicing San Diego County called Scout Distribution. Its warehouse and offices shares space with Harland in Scripps Ranch. Yesterday, we asked him about Harland. Today, he’s dishing up information on Scout.
What niche is Scout looking to fill in San Diego’s already-crowded beer and beverage landscape?
I didn’t come from beer. I’m not a brewer and have no family or friends in the beer business. Growing up in Ventura, beer was Coors Light and Bud Light, and at best, you have a friend who works at a beer distributor warehouse. I didn’t know anybody when I got into the beer business. When I started Saint Archer, we met with Stone Distributing Company and everything (Stone co-founder) Steve Wagner would tell me was like getting lessons at beer college. I didn’t know anything, and if it hadn’t been for that relationship, it would have been very hard in the beginning for me to understand what was going on. Stone gave me a valuable intro to how distribution works, which is not common for a beer distributor. It was more personable and they gave me a lot of access; a lot more there than your traditional Bud or MillerCoors house. Later, I was introduced to distributorships all over the country. Those don’t feel like partnerships. They’re just taking your beer places. They’re not getting into sales strategy and how to build your brand in the marketplace, or asking you how your capital raises are going. I wondered, ‘How come nobody asks that or gives a shit?’ That’s where Scout was born from. We can look the guys at JuneShine in the eye and be like, ‘I’ve been you, I know exactly what it’s like to be you and not know how to raise money or what to do with your brand or what pricing structure to use.’ I think that’s what’s been refreshing for the brands Scout represents. They’re left thinking, ‘These dudes really get us and understand.’ It’s been pretty special helping people because we do know what it’s like to start up, ramp up, and try to keep up with the different phases of a company’s growth. It’s not just, ‘Let me take your beer downtown to the Pendry.’ It’s, ‘Let me tell you how to get it there and save you money doing so.’ It’s crazy how many breweries just don’t know.
Who are Scout’s current clients and are you looking to add more brands?
We currently distribute beer for 32 North Brewing, Abnormal Beer Co., Harland Brewing, Ogopogo Brewing, and Topa Topa Brewing; cider for Bivouac Ciderworks; wine for Claxton Cellars; and hard kombucha for JuneShine. Other brands have reached out — some would be a surprise to people — and we get hit up multiple times a week from alcohol businesses all over the U.S. Having the film we produced for JuneShine turned some heads. That’s not common for a distributor. But for now, we’re standing pat with who we have.
What do you look for when taking on distribution partners?
The product is always number one. You could have the best brand on the planet with $100 million to spend, but if your beer sucks, it doesn’t matter. We also like getting a feel for the people. We have met with some folks where, personally, it wasn’t the right fit. That’s important. You’re entering into a marriage and getting divorced is really expensive, so I think you really need to like each other. That’s been a big thing for us. We’re really building brands with these people. You get to a point where self-distributing is gnarly. You spend a lot, wake up and wonder if you’re still a brewery or producer or if you’ve turned into a distribution business. You have to think of scaling. You don’t know about getting into chains and who to talk to. If you’re just getting by with your brewery, how are you going to finance the distribution arm of your business? It’s very sensitive; someone’s handing over their kid. We’re trusting our clients to grow this business with us, but also for us because we won’t be on the street selling together.
What are Scout’s current resources?
Scout is headquartered along with Harland Brewing in Scripps Ranch. Scout occupies 17,000 square feet of a 37,000-square-foot facility. We were originally going to have both businesses split a 17,000-square-foot building, but it’s a good thing we didn’t. It wouldn’t have worked out. We originally built a 3,000-square-foot cold box for our distributed brands, but things have gone so well that we’re out of space and constructing a 1,000-square-foot cold box. Similarly, we started out with two delivery trucks and are already up to four. Scout is already servicing over 800 San Diego County accounts after four months. It speaks to our veteran squad and the relationships they have forged over the years. That’s what really sells beer. You have to have people that have been local San Diegans for 15 years, people that bleed SD craft beer through and through. If you don’t, it’s really tough. And if you can convince people like that to jump into the deep end with you, you’re stoked!