US Craft breweries expanding internationally
Here’s an interesting article, from Colorado….
U.S. brewers create overseas ale storm
By Roger Fillion, Rocky Mountain News
A number of U.S. craft beer makers were inspired to launch their small-batch breweries years ago after quaffing beers from countries with long brewing traditions such as Belgium, Germany and England.
Now they’re returning the favor, shipping their beers abroad. And it’s paying dividends. Exports of U.S. craft beer, while small, are growing. But hurdles abound.
“They sent a wave over here twenty-some years ago that inspired craft brewers here,” said Eric Wallace, president of Left Hand Brewing Co. in Longmont. “Now we’re sending a counterwave.”
Since 2003, exports of U.S. craft beer have more than doubled, to more than 957,000 gallons – or nearly 31,000 barrels – last year, according to the Brewers Association, which offers a program to help craft brewers export beer. Nearly three dozen craft brewers participate.
Exports last year were valued at $5.6 million.
“It’s not huge. But it’s not insignificant, either. And it’s growing,” said Bob Pease, vice president of the Brewers Association.
Total sales of U.S. craft beers in 2007, by comparison, topped 8 million barrels.
Sweden is the No. 1 market, followed by Canada, Britain, Japan and Denmark. China is developing.
“Expatriates living in China account for a significant portion of craft beer sales,” said Josh Weiner, founder of Smith & Co. Importers, a Shanghai trading company.
Among Colorado craft brewers exporting beer: Great Divide Brewing Co., Avery Brewing Co. and Left Hand Brewing.
“It’s going reasonably well,” said Left Hand Brewing’s Wallace, whose beer is peddled in the Netherlands and Sweden, as well as Belgium, Switzerland and Britain.
Wallace said 1.3 percent of the Longmont beer maker’s sales this year have been overseas.
It’s not easy.
Wallace said it can take years to cultivate overseas contacts. The logistics also can be daunting – such as securing a large shipping container to transport the beer via truck, train and boat.
“Getting one right now takes about a month,” said Wallace, noting the overall U.S. export boom has triggered strong container demand.
Tommyknocker Brewery is exploring the overseas market.
Jim Schwab, director of sales and marketing for the Idaho Springs brewery, said price can be a hurdle.
He related a recent conversation with a South Korean beer importer interested in handling Tommyknocker beers.
The conversation was going “great” until price arose. Schwab offered to sell the beer at $14 a case.
The importer said that was too high. ” ‘I need it around $6.50 a case,’ ” Schwab quoted the man as saying.
Schwab replied: “Mr. Yu, no thank you. I can’t do it.”
According to the Brewers Association, Sweden accounts for more than a third of U.S. craft beer exports.