"We've already heard feedback from Oklahoma, North Carolina — places like that," says Latitude 33 brewmaster Gavin Harper.
A new, national beer-of-the-month service launched this summer, featuring a San Diego brewery in its inaugural shipments. Two beers from Vista's Latitude 33 Brewing were offered for the June delivery of CraftX, a Los Angeles–based enterprise that delivers a 12-pack of 16-ounce cans to monthly subscribers.
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According to cofounder Steve Ezell, the goal of CraftX is to introduce customers to stand-out, independently-owned breweries from different regions of the U.S., and to offer them beers they couldn't find outside the brewery's tasting room.
"Generally we won’t release anything customers could pick up at Bevmo or their local bottle shop," Ezell says. "So, one of the big hurdles is making sure the beer we're providing are beers you can't get anywhere else."
Each month, CraftX taps two breweries to make two different beers. Its initial three-month subscription package cost $50 per month, shipping included. For the launch, Latitude 33 offered a saison and blonde ale, while Orange County's Enegren Brewing Company contributed a pilsner and smoked doppelbock. Customers received six cans from each brewery but were otherwise allowed to choose what makeup of beers they preferred.
Ezell says the idea for CraftX grew out of a beer-of-the-month subscription gifted to him a few years ago, where it quickly became evident each monthly shipment consisted of remainder beers that had failed to sell in standard retail venues.
"My wife got me a subscription from a competing service for my birthday," he recalls. When the first box arrived that winter, "It had six pumpkin beers...it felt like a letdown."
To distinguish itself, CraftX commissions fresh beer from its brewery partners, enlisting a mobile canning line to package onsite within a week of its monthly shipment. Ezell says he and his partners spent the past two years working out shipping logistics — and tasting over a thousand beers in deciding which breweries to pick. He was forced to buy a dedicated beer refrigerator for his home.
"Probably at any given point, that fridge has beers from a hundred different breweries in it," he says with a laugh.
Other San Diego breweries he anticipates working with going forward include Mason Ale Works and Aztec Brewing Company.
While Latitude 33 packages several of its beers in bottles and cans, it currently only distributes within the Southern California region. Partnering with CraftX allowed them to get freshly canned beers to customers in 38 states.
"It's a different sort of exposure for us," says Latitude 33 brewmaster Gavin Harper. "We've already heard feedback from Oklahoma, North Carolina — places like that."
In addition to national exposure, Harper adds that participating with CraftX yielded another benefit: guaranteed sales gave him an excuse to gauge tasting-room response for the saison, which was flavored with basil and rhubarb. "We've had a lot of good feedback," he says. "So now it's turning into a seasonal beer for us."
As CraftX refines its operation this year, Ezell expects to factor cold-shipping, different subscription models, and East Coast breweries into the service.