A warning: We are talking about high proof Spirits here not beer or wine, which have a lower alcohol content and a much larger number of participant businesses, thus a larger political influence.
So, you have jumped through the government hoops (federal and local), you have your finances in order, you have your equipment and you are making your Spirits.
The first thing is to get your Spirits in a given states liquor stores. This means getting a distributor for said state or getting into the state run warehouse. The problem is that there are 50 different states and it would seem 50 different rules (I won’t talk about foreign distribution here).
There are basically two types of state distribution models:
Control States- These are states where the state government controls the distribution of the alcohol (and in some cases the stores themselves). See http://www.nabca.org/States/States.aspx for a list of control states.
(Go here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcoholic_beverage_control_state for a lot more information on control states)
To be able to sell your product in these control states; you must pass a jurying in process (usually held once or twice a year) and you must meet certain quotas or risk being de-listed from said state.
If you are a distillery in a control state you are (usually) automatically listed with the state, although a minimum sales quota may still apply.
3-Tier States- These are states that use a state licensed distributor, at the wholesale level, to distribute alcohol to state licensed businesses. (See the above link to see if you are in a control state or not). Your distributor will probably also have quotas that you will need to meet in order for them to keep you listed with them.
(It’s all about making money folks)
With all the new micro-distilleries coming on line, getting a distributor seems to be getting harder. Persistence is the key. Sometimes working with a distributor outside the main channels can work but you do need to be careful.
The next thing you will need to decide is how aggressively you want to grow.
Quite frankly this is usually a matter of how much money you want to put into advertising and competitions.
This reminds me of the old joke; how do you make a small fortune with a winery? Start with a large fortune.
The same can apply for a distillery. As you grow you will also need to keep up with demand. If you can’t keep up with demand you had better have a product people are willing to wait for.
I am a fan of being more conservative. On the other hand you can be too conservative. You will have to cross that bridge when you come to it.
-Christopher M Neumann