Eric Mueller recalls hand delivering three cases of beer up three flights of stairs as a twelve year old boy to a woman named Annie as a sweet reminder of the humble beginnings of what is known as the oldest continuing distributor in the nation. No doubt, the George A. Mueller Beer Co. team is incredibly proud of 150 years in business. The company has been through multiple transitions throughout its time, but one thing is certain; at five generations strong this distributor promises (and delivers) service and integrity and is a pillar in the community of Decatur, IL.
Starting off as a beer and wine company and with delivery to home residences, then coming into the world of candy distribution during prohibition and having customers literally lined up around the block to get their hands on the goodies, and back to beer, wine and liquor post-prohibition, George A. Mueller Beer Co. has always had the consumers best interest at heart. 1969 was a turning point for the Mueller family. They moved into a large facility in Springfield and acquired the Gallo franchise which was partnered with 48 counties, and allowed them to become a very large distributor with over 100 employees covering a vast territory.
In the early 90’s however, their business shifted due to the absence of franchise laws in liquor and wine and they sold off their portfolio and began acquiring distributors in Decatur, IL. Today, they have a distribution footprint of 14 counties. The success of George A. Mueller Beer Co. is their strong foundation, and commitment to integrity, loyalty, and family. Eric Mueller, retired after 45 years at the company, recalls “no one wanted to be the last one to turn off the lights.” As Mueller generations rose up in the industry the pride only increased, with each generation wanting to honor the one before it through hard work and dedication.
Legacy of Service
Serving both the consumer and suppliers well is of high value to George A. Mueller Beer Co. Throughout the generations they have made a commitment to only partner with suppliers who they know that they can serve well and who bring something unique to the consumer marketplace. Lance Mueller, General Manager, asks intentional questions before taking anyone on; “Does that brand have something to offer? Where does the brand fall in priority rankings?” This intention and attention to detail helps George A. Mueller Beer Co. build a portfolio that is carefully curated so that they have the capacity to do the right thing by those brands and ultimately so that the consumer has the best experience possible with their products. Moving from distribution of four beer SKUs in the early days to inventory of over 1,000 SKUs has not been an easy process but Eric Mueller, retired General Manager credits his son, Lance, and Kevin Jackson, Sales and Operations Manager, for excelling in their management over the varied inventory.
Rooted in Decatur
George A. Mueller Beer Co. has always been willing to adapt and dig in, from their work in beer, to liquor, wine, and more recently leaning into the non-alcoholic segments where they have seen a lot of growth in the past five years. This is a company who sees value not only in their personal passion as a distributor but also in what the consumer is seeking. Decatur, IL is definitely a beneficiary of this thoughtful approach to business. From spearheading the effort to bring a steel 9-11 memorial to Decatur, to going “all-in” with Barstool Open as a response to a personal ask for investment in people and communities with disabilities, they are committed to community advancement in Decatur. Eric Mueller and his team helped move Barstool Open from sixteen participants to now over four thousand, and raised over one million dollars for this event. George A. Mueller Beer Co. kick started the event in partnership with their community so that every single bar in the area is involved and at capacity. It’s a lot of fun, but the real purpose is serving the needs of their community.
Generation by Generation
The future of the ever-changing beer industry doesn’t worry George A. Mueller Beer Co. because of their proven ability to adapt. They see their employees continuing to work hard, be informed, and find success. It doesn’t matter where you work in the company, you will be going on sales routes. “I’m not sure how you can go into a sales meeting if you aren’t doing the sales work yourself,'' says Lance, who still goes on a weekly sales route. So the future for George A. Mueller? It looks like continued relationship building, growth in knowledge of the market, and more generations building on the success of the ones that come before them.