Americans aren't the only ones with a growing thirst for U.S. craft beer. The Brewers Association reported today (March 24) that craft beer exports increased 49 percent last year, representing 282,526 barrels and $73 million.
Canada remains the largest export market, with shipments increasing 92 percent by volume (up to 131,511 barrels). Sweden (15.5 percent) and the United Kingdom (7.9 percent) are the next two largest markets, with Australia (5.4 percent) and Japan (3.2 percent) following, according to the Boulder, Colo.-based association.
"Exports of American craft beer continue to expand in the international market, reflecting craft brewing’s overall success as an industry," association Chief Operating Officer Bob Pease said in a prepared statement. "New distribution agreements for U.S breweries throughout Europe and Asia are helping to grow exports. This sustained growth is a testament to the innovation of small and independent American craft brewers and the enthusiasm of beer drinkers internationally. With more beer exported around the world, the challenge now is to ensure that beer quality is preserved in all cases, so consumers are assured a positive experience. This is an area of focus for the Brewers Association and the Export Development Program.”
Fred Karm, the award-winning brewer and owner of Hoppin' Frog Brewery in Akron, said foreign markets can present challenges for American brewers. That includes shipping and keeping the beer cold. And foreign customers tend to be fickle, always wanting the latest award-winning brew, Karm said.
Hoppin' Frog is distributed in 15 foreign countries. Karm said he didn't see his exports increase last year, but they have gone up over the last several years.
"It’s rewarding to have people who are drinking your beer who can hardly speak English," he said with a laugh.
The association supports exports through its Export Development Program, which began in 2004. The program generates exposure for American craft beer through trade shows, festivals, seminars, media outreach and competitions, among other activities.
“Expanding the footprint of American craft beers internationally is an important goal for small and independent craft brewers," Eric Wallace, president of Left Hand Brewing and chair of the program committee, said in a prepared statement. "We are thrilled to see the increasing appreciation of and demand for American craft beer in markets outside of the U.S. The EDP will continue to promote American craft beers through its focus on quality and diversity to ensure they flourish abroad over the long term.”