Thank you for posting the link, BrewingRover. That is some article! It actually changed some of my perception regarding the three tier distributor system.
In the past I've tried Stone Ruination and I didn't like it, the article made me think on it. Freshness is key with most beers or proper aging by style. The Ruination that I tried was probably past its best by date for freshness. If the beer had been made on this side of the country it probably would have been fresher. When I was in CA I couldn't get enough of the west coast beers, they were great! Now that I'm back on the east side I tend to drink brands that are made closer to home... ie. Founders and Bells. Ask Blatz and he'll tell you that east coast IPA's are lacking compared to west coast brands. He's probably right, the west coast brands are fresher getting to the shelves in his area!
I think we need more distributors and or hubs. I also think some of the west coast breweries such as Stone etc. should consider opening a brewery in the east and vice-versa. I know that Sierra Nevada beers do not have the same freshness as those I bought in OH and where I bought it is only ~6 hours drive from where I now live. I hardly buy SN now because it doesn't taste the same to me. Something changed and the only reasonable assumption is how quickly it gets from the brewery to the shelves in my area.
Added this, I bought SN Torpedo IPA while I lived in OH and I didn't like it either. I think the IPA's especially need to be fresh or they degradate and become lacking except becoming bitter tasting only.