CraftCellr, a new mobile platform that lets craft beer lovers connect with craft breweries to preview and preorder new releases, officially launched in December 2017.
Since then, the Atlanta-based startup has been steadily expanding its reach, with brewery partners across Georgia, as well as in Alabama, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, and states coming soon.
With more and more breweries selling some of their rarest seasonal and small batch beers as taproom-only releases, CraftCellr’s appeal to buyers is that they can reserve and pay online, then pick up their purchases without waiting in long lines. But for the platform to thrive, it had to be a win for breweries, too.
“CraftCellr has been a great way for us to gauge the popularity of certain small batch releases and the styles associated with those releases,” said Jonathan Baker, co-founder and CMO of Atlanta’s Monday Night Brewing, which was the first company to sell its beer via the platform.
“It gives our consumers, particularly those who don’t live close to the brewery, a way to be guaranteed they can get their hands on something that’s super small batch without having to play the waiting game, or wonder if they’re going to be first or last in line,” Baker noted. “We’ve been with them since the beginning, and the platform has only gotten better. They’ve been great at listening to what breweries want, and building in the features that will help us most.”
Recently, I caught up with Eric Thelen, the co-founder of CraftCellr, who gave me a tour of the platform using his laptop, and wound up the demonstration by purchasing an upcoming Monday Night release.
Thelen told me that the genesis of CraftCellr can be traced back to Sept. 1, 2017, the day Senate Bill 85 went into effect, allowing Georgia breweries to sell beer directly to consumers.
“That was huge,” Thelen said. “It allowed a lot more breweries to open up, because they could get to profitability much faster. That was one piece of it. The second piece was, as a beer consumer myself, I was going to a lot of bottle shops and seeing the same stuff over and over again. And I realized if I wanted some of the more interesting beers, I’d need to go check out some of the crazy, funky, cool stuff at the breweries that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Thelen said that during the first year, CraftCellr mainly stuck close to home, with Monday Night as its guinea pig.
“In year one, it was all about building the product with the people in our own backyard and our own market, and really learning from consumers and partners what they want out of it,” he said. “And then, obviously, it made sense for us to go into other states in the Southeast.”
Asked to name some of the Georgia breweries that were thriving on CraftCellr, Thelen cited two examples — one big, and one small.
“It kind of runs the gamut,” he said. “Creature Comforts does a really good job on the platform, but we also have Pontoon that does a great job on the platform. Talk about a brewery that’s a year old, they built it from the ground up, and they were one of our early adopters. So you don’t need to be the size of Comforts to have success on the platform. And I guess that’s the point.”