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The booming craft beer industry has made the beer distribution business a lot more complex, according to Mason Lee, with 7G Distributing. 

Increased demand and a need for more space are some of the reasons behind the beer distributor opening an expanded, 110,000-square foot warehouse on 14.5 acres at the Eastern Iowa Industrial Center in Davenport. But Lee, 7G vice president of operations, said the main reason was the growing distribution of craft beer.

"In fact, beer trends are flat or negative nationwide for the most part. But it's the complexity in our market that has grown," Lee said. "All of these craft brewers have opened up shop and started distributing product. Think back 10 years ago, your typical distributor might have handled 200 different products. Now, they handle 2,000."

Even the largest players are introducing craft beer to the market, he said, including Anheuser Busch, which remains the distributor's main supplier. Now, 7G carries more than 30 suppliers. In the Quad-Cities, it distributes for Great River, Bent River and Green Tree breweries. 


Scenes from 7G Distributing's Red, White and Brew open house featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales at their new distribution center in Davenport on Saturday, July 7, 2018.

With the Budweiser Clydesdales and around 500 people in attendance on Saturday, 7G executives and elected officials celebrated its new facility, which is more than double the size of the previous warehouse. 

The well-known eight-horse hitch, accompanied with the red beer wagon, marked the official opening for the beer distributor, which has been delivering Anheuser Busch products since 1957, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Stith.

Knowing the company needed to expand operations to adjust in the evolving market, Lee said 7G considered several options. But instead of consolidating its locations in Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, the company chose to maintain a presence in the Quad-Cities.

"We thought it'd be disruptive to move three operations into one, but also, we think having a local presence in our community we serve is really important for our employees and our customers," he said. "The whole area is great in the (industrial park). We chose it because it's shovel-ready. We were confident we weren't going to run into any issues when you start moving dirt around." 

The new warehouse replaces its previous operation nearby on Northwest Boulevard. The project is a $15 million investment. Lee said 93 percent of the construction labor was sourced from the Quad-Cities region. 

With the new building, Lee said 7G chose to build its largest rooftop solar array. 

"We've done solar at our other two locations on a smaller scale and it's been successful," he said. "So we looked at the incentives out there and decided it really made sense to go big with it. It's 10-times the size of our other installs. And we're pretty comfortable it's one of the biggest rooftop arrays in Iowa." 

The roughly $500,000, 250kw solar system should generate the equivalent of enough energy to power 30 homes for one year, and offset between 30 and 50 percent of the company's annual energy usage, according to Lee. 

7G Distributing serves more than 700 customers across Cedar, Clinton, Muscatine and Scott counties. The company estimates it delivers 1.7 million cases of beer each year.


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