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Questions on beer distribution

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    Questions on beer distribution

    Ok. I have been avoiding asking this question for some time as I felt I could turn up a reasonable answer to my own questions. Having failed that, I'm looking for someone with some knowledge or expertise on a question I have regarding the distribution of beer. Specifically, why can't I seem to get anyone to provide (or explain why not) a source for Kilkenny beer here where I live?

    Kilkenny beer is a Diageo brand and my understanding is that it is also a family member of Guinness, Harp, etc. I know Kilkenny has been available in different places around the country. I know I can get other Diageo brands here. I know I can get Guinness brands here. Why not Kilkenny?

    I keep thinking I need to ask my northern neighbors in Canada to see if anyone is willing to ship me some. But really, it simply shouldn't be that difficult to get it here. Can anyone explain why I can't get Kilkenny in a widget can (or any other form of it) here in New Mexico? Is there some secret distributor rule that I am unaware of? Are there brand "blackouts" based on region or state? If so, why some Diageo products but not others?

    Please enlighten me.



      If I were in your predicament I would ask my local beer purveyor. They might just order some up for you.


        I have been lookin' for a specific chinese wine for cookin', (not a cooking wine), for a number of years. Iwas finally told that it is not for sale in VA by the person who does special orders for a large grocery chain. We go to the Outer Banks of NC every summer, so I emailed a wine shop in that area. It took a while, but they finally got back to me that it's not sold in NC either...

        I can buy it online, but it's four times the regular price - plus shipping.
        Last edited by RonB; June 12, 2020, 02:56 PM.


          Distribution chains are weird things, especially with alcohol. So many states have weirdness with the way they deal with alcohol sales.

          Alabama for instance, has a 3 tier system. Suppliers MUST sell to a distributor. The distributor MUST sell to a retailer. No exceptions. It means a small brewery cannot sell to the restaurant next door without involving a middle man who takes a cut.

          Then there are the state stores for liquor - the state stores basically are the supplier for privately owned liquor stores, meaning the state store is almost always cheaper, if there is one near you.

          Anyway, there are beers I cannot buy in Alabama, as they exceed the limits for what Alabama state law considers to be the maximum ABV for a beer. The Sam Adams Utopias for example come to mind. Alabama limits the ABV of beer to 13.9%. I am a brewer, and it is actually HARD to make a beer that is much over 13%, so there are not many out there. But its better than the law before 2009, when the legal limit was 6%.


          • scottranda
            scottranda commented
            Editing a comment
            The state of Utah is laughing at you.

          • Loren
            Loren commented
            Editing a comment
            Pretty much the distribution system is a racket, courtesy of Prohibition. Oregon is a draconian liquor state, with roughly the same system. It's ridiculous.

            There is a very interesting documentary on it called "Beer Wars" (I think).

          I see I'm not the only one with this frustration. I guess I could ask again but last time I reached out to Diageo I got a useless auto reply thanking me for my inquiry. As for getting a local distributor to order it, I actually had a guy from the largest distro in the area tell me they can get basically whatever I want and then proceeded to tell me what I want isn't on their list but couldn't explain why. It's oddly frustrating.


          • mnavarre
            mnavarre commented
            Editing a comment
            Could just be that they're not the neighborhood Diageo distributors, not every distributor can get everything. At least that's how it works here in Cali. Kilkenny doesn't seem to be widely distributed here in the US though, though I know a few of the pubs here have had it on the regular. If I happen to see our Guinness rep, and think of it I'll try to remember to ask what the deal is.

          As big as Diageo are I think they might be a smaller player in the American beer market. The beers mentioned above are brewed in Ireland where Guiness is their big seller and Kilkenny is not popular at all & we won't even go near harp.


          • Arsenlael
            Arsenlael commented
            Editing a comment
            Ha ha ha! Harp is pretty lame for sure. It's crazy to me that you can get Harp all over the place here but the FAR superior Kilkenny is nowhere to be seen. It's almost as if the market is trying to hide it like they did with the similar Caffreys a few years back

          • Neris
            Neris commented
            Editing a comment
            You can't get harp in Ireland anymore that's how crap it is. It's even worse then that American horse pee from the clydesdales and that stuff is baaaad

          Know this doesn't help, but here in Massachusetts distributors rule the roost. Thats OK other than as a middle man $$ goes up. I have a great liquor store next town over. I'm on a 1st name basis with the beer guy. If I call Jon and ask him to get XXX, he contacts the distributor and in a few days, I get the call your beer is in.


            We have 2 bottle shops in our small town, both will order from any company world wide that will ship. There's only been a small handful of national favorites they've been unable to get.


              A couple things - none of which may be the actual reason you can't find Kilkenny beer.

              1} Kilkenny isn't brewed at the same brewery as Guiness. A lot of import rules has to do with point of original. Texas can't import beer from Mississippi but can from bordering states. But since it's brewed in Ireland and so is Guiness..... That's probably not it.

              2} you've seen it in other places in the US, so it can probably be imported. And Diageo is a big enough supplier that I would think they could get products to market if they wanted to.

              ​​​​​​3} my guess is that there isn't enough market demand in New Mexico for them to carry Kilkenny.
              I'd try someplace like Total Wine and see if they can order it for you. If they can't, they'll at least know why. I've had retailers make special orders before, as long as they're allowed to sell it.

              It's tasty beer. I hope you can find it.


                Well, the name Kilkenny evolved because Canadian's can't pronounce the word Smithwick's.

                No really!

                Really though, beer is a product. The beer name is the commodity. Some beers sell here, some beers do not. Texas as mentioned, we have a 3 tier system set in place from the prohibition days. Only a few years ago did we lobby enough to put a crack in that system. Now we can go to the actual brewery and get a bare smidgeon of the heathen alcohol in Texas. It allows us to take home a very small sample of beer from a craft brewery, to enjoy responsibly while drinking it on the way home.

                I have had Smithwick's. Never Kilkenny though. I would like to try it! Here we have a great outlet called Spec's Liquor. We do not have state run liquor stores in Texas. But I'll bet you can find an online retailer to order from. These are the things we have to do these days. Searching though, Kilkenny is dang dang hard to find here in the states!


                • smokin fool
                  smokin fool commented
                  Editing a comment
                  You just don't pronounce the "w".....Smithick's….eh....
                  When my sister lived in Kaufman, Tx it was in a dry county, had to drive to Tyler for anything alcoholic.
                  Local judge finally got fed up and he opened a liquor store in Kaufman.

                You might find this interesting:


                Lookin' at the above page, Kilkenny is one of their brands...


                  Some interesting food for thought here. Thanks all for your thoughts on this issue. It's an x-file wrapped in a cover-up, and deep fried in paranoid conspiracy!


                    Interesting thread. We get Kilkenny easily up here. I’ve never tried to find in the US, generally drink stuff I can’t get here when I’m down south. Maybe just a market penetration thing.


                      50 states, 50 import laws. It’s a frigging nightmare that would be improved by the federal government stepping in.

                      but that’s not it. Diageo can navigate the 50 states/50 laws problem. I would guess there just isn’t demand in New Mexico for it. And that is a hard but to crack.

                      no Kilkenny at the big booze chain here in Chicago. Can be had on draft at a few Irish bars, but cannot be bought that a quick google found in Chicagoland.


                      • pkadare
                        pkadare commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Hmm, I thought all butts already have cracks. Mine sure does. :-)


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