Local golf cocktail maker drives growth with new distribution deals, new flavors

transfusionforecraftcocktailscooler

The Transfusion was Fore’s first drink to hit the market. (Images courtesy Fore Craft Cocktails)

Turner Lewis hasn’t given up his day job just yet, but his side gig continues to blossom.

The local radiologist’s startup, a golf-themed canned cocktail company, Fore Craft Cocktails, remains in expansion mode with the recent creation of new drink flavors and new markets in which to sell them.

Lewis said the business, which was born out of a pandemic-era idea in May 2021, now has a line of five flavors and has expanded its distribution into nine states.

Its most recent distribution deals were signed in Michigan and Wisconsin, which will be its eighth and ninth states when its cans begin to roll out there next month.

Lewis said while those two Midwestern markets are known for their long winters, they have a healthy golf scene in the warmer months.

“It may be a shorter season, but I think they go crazy when the sun hits and the snow melts,” Lewis said. “It’s definitely a good market.”

Michigan and Wisconsin add to the company’s presence in Virginia, the Carolinas, Maryland, Tennessee, Arkansas and upstate New York.

turnerlewis

Turner Lewis

Lewis said he’s also working through negotiations to expand into New Jersey, Connecticut, Indiana and Ohio, though the deals haven’t yet been finalized.

The geographical expansion coincides with Fore’s release of new flavors.

Lewis launched the company by canning his favorite golf drink, the Transfusion, a mix of vodka, ginger ale, grape juice and lime. He then quickly concocted a version of an Arnold Palmer with vodka, followed by Ranch Water, which has tequila, lime and sparkling mineral water.

The latest on the menu is a Bloody Mary that he’s been shopping around at golf trade shows, and The Southside, made with vodka, lime, mint and soda, which he said is his take on a mojito.

Adding to the momentum was a deal last year to get Fore’s cans on the shelves of all 15 or so Trader Joe’s stores in Virginia.

“That really boosted the sales for the rest of the year,” Lewis said of the deal.

That adds to previous retail deals with Kroger and Total Wine and small markets like Libbie Market and Yellow Umbrella, as well as landing Fore’s cans on the menus at numerous golf and country clubs around Virginia and Topgolf Richmond.

“Last year was a big year,” Lewis said. “We’ve definitely had a lot of growth in Virginia.”

Lewis also has been pondering a plan to get onto the shelves of Virginia’s ABC stores. Despite the fact that they’re made with liquor, Fore’s drinks currently are not allowed in state-run liquor stores because they don’t meet one of two key thresholds: their alcohol content is too low and they’re not manufactured in Virginia.

Lewis has no plans to raise the alcohol percentage because that’s what allows his products in grocery stores and other private retailers. But he is in talks to potentially meet the manufacturing threshold by striking a deal with a contract beverage maker in Virginia Beach. Fore’s drinks are currently made by so-called flavor houses in three locations outside of Virginia.

fore craft cocktails ranch water

Fore’s Ranch Water is its first product with tequila.

Nearly three years into the business, Lewis said he’s still running Fore as a one-man operation when he’s not making his hospital rounds as a radiologist. He’s able to manage the workload by farming out the manufacturing to the flavor houses and using contract warehouses to store and ship his products.

“It’s still a ‘part-time’ full-time job,” he said. “I’m still full time at the hospital.”

He’s thought about bringing on some employees, but given inflation and other economic factors, Lewis said he’s hesitant to make the leap.

“It’s a crazy time to take a total leap of faith,” he said. “I’m still doing it myself for better or worse.”

Lewis said the business is very much in startup mode and he puts every dollar he makes on it back into the business.

“All the revenue that comes in goes back into the next run. With scale, the cost per run and per case is lower but the runs get bigger. So we’re still in that growth cycle. The bottom line, it’s profitable but I’m not taking anything out of it.”

One of his next growth goals is to land distribution deals in year-round warm weather states such as Florida, Arizona and California. They’re the coveted golf markets and generally great markets for the canned cocktail industry.

“That’s the prize…everybody wants it,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition to convince a distributor to bring you in.”

His ultimate goal, beyond hoping that Fore can allow him to ease out of his medical practice, is trying to figure out how to solidify an official relationship with the PGA.

“My goal is to be the official canned cocktail of golf,” he said, adding that he’s confident it can get there “if we just get enough people to taste it.”

transfusionforecraftcocktailscooler

The Transfusion was Fore’s first drink to hit the market. (Images courtesy Fore Craft Cocktails)

Turner Lewis hasn’t given up his day job just yet, but his side gig continues to blossom.

The local radiologist’s startup, a golf-themed canned cocktail company, Fore Craft Cocktails, remains in expansion mode with the recent creation of new drink flavors and new markets in which to sell them.

Lewis said the business, which was born out of a pandemic-era idea in May 2021, now has a line of five flavors and has expanded its distribution into nine states.

Its most recent distribution deals were signed in Michigan and Wisconsin, which will be its eighth and ninth states when its cans begin to roll out there next month.

Lewis said while those two Midwestern markets are known for their long winters, they have a healthy golf scene in the warmer months.

“It may be a shorter season, but I think they go crazy when the sun hits and the snow melts,” Lewis said. “It’s definitely a good market.”

Michigan and Wisconsin add to the company’s presence in Virginia, the Carolinas, Maryland, Tennessee, Arkansas and upstate New York.

turnerlewis

Turner Lewis

Lewis said he’s also working through negotiations to expand into New Jersey, Connecticut, Indiana and Ohio, though the deals haven’t yet been finalized.

The geographical expansion coincides with Fore’s release of new flavors.

Lewis launched the company by canning his favorite golf drink, the Transfusion, a mix of vodka, ginger ale, grape juice and lime. He then quickly concocted a version of an Arnold Palmer with vodka, followed by Ranch Water, which has tequila, lime and sparkling mineral water.

The latest on the menu is a Bloody Mary that he’s been shopping around at golf trade shows, and The Southside, made with vodka, lime, mint and soda, which he said is his take on a mojito.

Adding to the momentum was a deal last year to get Fore’s cans on the shelves of all 15 or so Trader Joe’s stores in Virginia.

“That really boosted the sales for the rest of the year,” Lewis said of the deal.

That adds to previous retail deals with Kroger and Total Wine and small markets like Libbie Market and Yellow Umbrella, as well as landing Fore’s cans on the menus at numerous golf and country clubs around Virginia and Topgolf Richmond.

“Last year was a big year,” Lewis said. “We’ve definitely had a lot of growth in Virginia.”

Lewis also has been pondering a plan to get onto the shelves of Virginia’s ABC stores. Despite the fact that they’re made with liquor, Fore’s drinks currently are not allowed in state-run liquor stores because they don’t meet one of two key thresholds: their alcohol content is too low and they’re not manufactured in Virginia.

Lewis has no plans to raise the alcohol percentage because that’s what allows his products in grocery stores and other private retailers. But he is in talks to potentially meet the manufacturing threshold by striking a deal with a contract beverage maker in Virginia Beach. Fore’s drinks are currently made by so-called flavor houses in three locations outside of Virginia.

fore craft cocktails ranch water

Fore’s Ranch Water is its first product with tequila.

Nearly three years into the business, Lewis said he’s still running Fore as a one-man operation when he’s not making his hospital rounds as a radiologist. He’s able to manage the workload by farming out the manufacturing to the flavor houses and using contract warehouses to store and ship his products.

“It’s still a ‘part-time’ full-time job,” he said. “I’m still full time at the hospital.”

He’s thought about bringing on some employees, but given inflation and other economic factors, Lewis said he’s hesitant to make the leap.

“It’s a crazy time to take a total leap of faith,” he said. “I’m still doing it myself for better or worse.”

Lewis said the business is very much in startup mode and he puts every dollar he makes on it back into the business.

“All the revenue that comes in goes back into the next run. With scale, the cost per run and per case is lower but the runs get bigger. So we’re still in that growth cycle. The bottom line, it’s profitable but I’m not taking anything out of it.”

One of his next growth goals is to land distribution deals in year-round warm weather states such as Florida, Arizona and California. They’re the coveted golf markets and generally great markets for the canned cocktail industry.

“That’s the prize…everybody wants it,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition to convince a distributor to bring you in.”

His ultimate goal, beyond hoping that Fore can allow him to ease out of his medical practice, is trying to figure out how to solidify an official relationship with the PGA.

“My goal is to be the official canned cocktail of golf,” he said, adding that he’s confident it can get there “if we just get enough people to taste it.”

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Scott Green
Scott Green
1 month ago

Good for him! Sounds like he’s achieved a lot for a side gig, and has very good business instincts. Also, he should add an Old Fashioned to the lineup. 🙂

Steve Balboni
Steve Balboni
1 month ago

Vertical integration at its finest. Can up some cancer causing fluids and then treat the imbibers on the back-end.