Home Brew

Consumers worldwide are thirsty for American beers.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the October 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

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.

Trading Place

Managing international payments has never been easier, now that a new system of foreign exchange has hit the Internet. Launched in February by travel and financial services company Thomas Cook, the Virtual Trading Desk offers registered users wire transfers and free access to foreign drafts in more than 30 currencies.

"Our customers [needed an] online ordering system for their foreign exchange and were dissatisfied with the options available," says Philip Walker, director of strategic projects for Thomas Cook in Toronto. Currency orders once placed by phone, mail or fax can now be executed instantly through the interactive Virtual Trading Desk. When an overseas company requests payment, Thomas Cook customers can log on to the company's Web site, input the necessary instructions and place the order.

"[Virtual Trading Desk] does not replace wires or drafts, instruments in the financial community that are most recognized around the world," Walker explains. "What it does replace is the method of transmitting instructions and of being able to receive quotations and confirmations about those instructions."

Virtual Trading Desk also allows you to store order information so you can perform repetitive transactions quickly. The companion Web site features case studies, country profiles and glossaries designed to assist businesses in trade. For registration information, call (800) 223-9392 or visit Thomas Cook's Web site at http://www.fx4business.com

Phone Bill

The average cost and time it takes to install a phone in Europe: In U.S. dollars.

Source: DHL Worldwide Express


  • Time

Bucharest $50 1 month

Budapest $1,200 2 months

Frankfurt $132 5 days

London $130 1 week

Madrid $250 2 days

Moscow $2,000 2 months

Paris $70 3 days

Prague $200 2 months

Warsaw $200 3 months

Contact Sources

The Association of Brewers, (303) 447-0816, ext. 137, fax: (303) 447-2825

DHL Worldwide Express, 333 Twin Dolphin Dr., Redwood City, CA 94065, (415) 593-7474

Rogue Ales/Oregon Brewing Co., (541) 867-3660, http://www.rogueales.com

Thomas Cook Group-Canada Ltd., 100 Yonge St., #1500, Toronto, ON, M5C 2W1, CAN, (416) 359-3843.

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