American Craft Beers Go International

When most people think of American craft beers, they imagine beers produced with a rather limited sales area. In the past, that has been largely true. However, things are changing in the craft brew industry, and the international demand for American craft beers has hit an all-time high. Interestingly, this demand is beginning to compete with the demand for mass-produced American beers (which has never been that high on the international scene). 

It's a strange landscape. Once upon a time, American brewers took their cues and got advice from international brewers. Today, the situation is reversed. There are a number of international breweries that are actually importing American craft beers for their markets. They are even sending their reps to the States to learn more about the art of brewing from US craft brewers. If that's not a total reversal, then the concept needs to be redefined! 

There are several well-known international breweries that are taking their cues from the US. Companies like BrewDog and Hildegard van Ostaden are taking up many of the practices pioneered first by American craft breweries. Coffee-infused stouts are some of the most visible things, as a number of double IPAs. Higher alcohol volume beers are also a hallmark of this, a trend that BrewDog has taken to extremes with some of their previous beers.

According to many European brewers, the local scene (local for them) has become stale and stuffy. The traditions governing beer brewing overseas have become laws, rather than guidelines. More and more frequently, UK and European breweries are not only willing to challenge those traditions, but do so on a frequent basis. Of course, all the attention American craft beers are getting has had a big effect on demand, but many American breweries struggle to meet the demand.

One of the most difficult challenges to meet is keeping beer fresh on its way to Britain or Europe. Freshness makes a huge amount of difference in the way craft beer tastes (as any self-respecting beer lover knows). The very supply chain that allows US brewers to reach overseas markets can have negative effects on the freshness of the beer. Interestingly, the beers that seem to survive the process the best are the highly hopped, high alcohol variety that seem to be the ones most in demand. 

All in all, it's an interesting shift in things, and the trend is still playing out. America has no doubt earned the recognition as a great beer-producing nation.

Posted on February 17, 2011 and filed under The Business of Beer.