Oklahoma Distributor Moves East in Benton County Beer Battle

Some of those dollars generated by Benton County’s conversion to a wet county are headed for Oklahoma.

Perhaps you knew that A&B Distributors Inc., an Anheuser-Busch distributor based in Muskogee, Okla., is poised to cash in on the dry-to-wet conversion.

A related entity, A&B Distributors of Arkansas, has paperwork rolling to do business in Arkansas, notably wholesale beer sales in Benton and Madison counties.

That development is a surprising competitive twist because McBride Distributing Co. is just down the road in Fayetteville. McBride is a logical, geographical choice to serve Benton and Madison counties.

When we inquired with Anheuser-Busch, we received the following statement via email from Anheuser-Busch Regional VP Keith Diggs:

“We have excellent wholesalers who provide great service throughout the Southwest region. We look forward to naming the wholesaler that will service Benton County after it goes wet once all necessary licenses have been obtained.”

A spokesperson also alerted us that because Benton County “borders Missouri and Oklahoma, wholesalers in those states are also potential choices to serve the county.”

An employee at Arkansas’ Alcoholic Beverage Control Division later told us she does not believe McBride has applied for permits in either county.

Angela Ryan, owner of McBride, did not return a call seeking comment, but a source familiar with the situation put it this way: “McBride is not happy.”

It seems apparent that it’s only a matter of time until Anheuser-Busch makes it official that A&B will be serving Benton and Madison counties.

Miller Time

All is good, meanwhile, at Fayetteville-based Premium Brands NWA, which distributes Miller Brewing Co. and Coors Brewing Co. products, among others. Miller and Coors merged in 2008, thus forming MillerCoors, and Premium Brands bought Coors of Western Arkansas in August.

Premium Brands General Manager Heath Sutherlin told us his company is ready to serve Benton and Madison counties and anticipates hiring as many as 10 additional employees.