Three Threads

Three Threads by | May 2009 | Issue #28

How do you see the US exported craft beer market growing in the next five years?

Bob Pease
Vice President, Brewers Association (Colorado)

I am very bullish on export opportunities for US craft beer. Globally, US craft beers still have very limited exposure and a small presence. But awareness of these beers is growing tremendously and consumers want to be able to buy them. In terms of specific markets, I think exports to Canada could grow quickly if the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) continues to add brands each year, and if that helps motivate other provincial monopolies to follow suit. I think exports to China should continue to increase annually since there are still many untapped markets and opportunities within that country. In Europe, I think the pace of export growth may slow a bit, but that annual increases are still very realistic. And these are just the markets we currently target with our export program. Over the next five years, I can see importers in Central and South America and elsewhere in Asia also looking to expand sales of US craft beer, and looking for support from the Brewers Association.

Brett Joyce
President, Rogue Ales (Oregon)

Growth for exported US craft beer will be truly GLOBAL. It will occur in countries like Canada, Japan and Sweden that have been leaders in importing US craft beers; it will happen in countries that are just beginning to develop a culture and appetite for craft, like China, the Philippines and Australia; and it will happen in countries that, to date, have not imported craft, such as Brazil, Korea, India, South Africa, Germany, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. American craft breweries are making the most creative and diverse ales, Porters, Stouts and lagers in the world, and there is no doubt that retailers and consumers throughout the world will continue to discover this and then establish businesses and infrastructures that will allow US craft beer to be enjoyed on all seven continents (or maybe just six—Antarctica might be tough).

Eric Wallace
President, Left Hand Brewing Co. (Colorado)

I think Canada, Europe and Japan are the most likely markets in which American craft brewers will establish a legitimately successful export business. Most other markets in the world are barely aware of craft beer (save Australia and maybe New Zealand), and our beers are relatively expensive, so piling transportation and taxes on top of the wholesale price will likely keep us out of places without highly developed economies. These markets already have some enthusiastic fans for what we’re brewing, borne out by the imitations that we’re now starting to see back here in the States, so they are ready—just further behind the development curve than we are. We at Left Hand have found moderate success in Europe (particularly Sweden) after many years of trying to find out just how things work over there. It will take time, perseverance and a focus on quality—we can build from there.