Pure, unadulterated American brew--just the thing to quench the thirst of the world's beer enthusiasts. Just ask Jack Joyce, president and founder of Rogue Ales/Oregon Brewing Co. in Newport, Oregon. When this brewer broke into the Japanese market three years ago, consumers' tastes for American microbrews were ripening. Today, the country now quaffs literally thousands of bottles of his premium beer annually.
Although foreign interest in American beer is intensifying, before you take your lagers and ales abroad, consider the following, says Charles Papazian, president and founder of The Association of Brewers:
- Identify the countries with the most promise. "The area that has expressed the most interest is Japan," says Papazian, who has 19 years of industry experience. "Within the last four years, there have been a few special interest groups in Japan that have been promoting the beer culture." Other favorable areas include Canada, South America and parts of Europe--in 1995, for instance, the United Kingdom's imported beer market exceeded $1.8 billion. And in Hong Kong, the United States leads the way in beer imports.
- Know what to brew. "I think for the most part, the world is most familiar with light, lager-style beers," Papazian says. Introducing other tastes to consumers is sometimes risky, with the exception of consumers in Belgium and the U.K., who share strong ale traditions. Joyce discovered that unusual brews, such as those flavored with mint, buckwheat and chocolate, fared best in Japan.
Another word of advice: Don't export a product that is too similar to the beer produced by the country's top breweries. According to Papazian, it's unlikely that microbrewers will be able to compete successfully on that level.
- Build on your success. Establish a strong domestic market before diving into the international arena.