By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 30, 2024 at 9:04 AM

There are all kinds of businesses working in the beer game, from mobile canners to ingredient suppliers to distributors to beer can label printers to companies that clean beer lines in taprooms and bars to brewing equipment manufacturers to contract brewers and on and on.

But Milwaukee-based Beverage Federation is something different.

Founded by Dan Klasen, the Beverage Federation is a Group Purchasing Organization (GPO), that helps craft breweries, distilleries and wineries take advantage of the kinds of economies of scale from which the big players benefit.

By banding together and pooling their purchasing power, the Beverage Federation’s 225 members work with 65 supply partners to be able to compete more effectively. The federation helps with purchase of everything from hops to glassware to cleaning supplies to bottles and more.

“I describe it as the Costco model to a lot of our new brewery and distillery members,” Klasen says. “The idea is that with membership you get better pricing and the purchasing services that are typically only accessible to larger organizations.

“When I was just getting started, I wanted to spend my time in sales, or marketing and not in accounting or HR. These areas are just as important to the success of the business, but there aren’t always scalable services for businesses to use when they are smaller.”

A small business owner himself, Klasen – a UW grad with an MBA from Marquette University – has experience working for CBRE, CDW and Zurn.

Now, he’s turned his skills toward his passion and hoping, in his words, “to save the craft beverage industry.”

“Much of the craft industry is a maturing market, especially the craft brewing industry,” he notes. “After years of explosive growth, the industry is going through a variety of changes and challenges; from new forms of craft beverages (i.e. hard seltzer and THC-infused), to changes in consumers’ drinking habits, to increased preferences in non-alcoholic alternatives.

“Besides consumer changes, breweries and wineries are dealing with economic factors like increased costs, inflation, and an influx of new supply partners, all of which are outside their control.”

Among the Beverage Federation’s area members are Third Space, 1840 and Component Brewing.

“Just as we consistently strive to make better beer we also strive to be smarter business people,” says Third Space co-founder Andy Gehl.

“In the face of increasing costs across all inputs in our business, the Beverage Federation, offers an opportunity to cut costs without sacrificing quality by increasing our buying power collectively with other breweries.”

Members pay about $30 per month to access the partners, purchasing resource, benchmark data and other services.

Partners include everything from merch suppliers like Craft Industry Apparel to hops dealers like The Hop Guild to the Cicerone Beer Savvy certification program.

“Our focus is setting up easy-to-use programs that help ‘lean out’ our members' business operations,” Klasen says. “Our goal is to reduce costs, so they can be in business for years to come.

“If we are doing our job right, they can spend less time on purchasing operations and more time on producing the craft products their patrons love.”

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.