American Craft Brewery Eyes German Market

Los Angeles Times writer Shan Li reported last week that, “In June, Stone [Brewery] opened a brewery in Berlin, becoming one of the first American craft breweries to operate in Germany. Its arrival could prove a test not just for Stone but for a cohort of innovative American brewers that fueled the rise of the U.S. craft brewing scene but have not yet developed large global customer bases.

“The move comes as craft breweries are facing slowing growth in the U.S. After years of rapid expansion, established craft brewers are bumping up against thick competition from an explosion of small breweries they inspired and behemoth brands that have refreshed their offerings to compete. Some independent brewers have sold off to beverage conglomerates or are taking a page from their book by setting their sights on global markets.

“‘2015 seemed to be the first year that growth may be reaching a plateau,’ said Nick Petrillo, senior analyst at IBISWorld. ‘Craft beer isn’t stalling, but it’s going to reach a point of maturity in the sense its growth isn’t going to be as massive.'”

The LA Times article noted that, “Stone’s move to Europe is part of a big bet on its future as a global beer player. In addition to the brewery, the beer maker also opened up a restaurant and beer garden there in September.

“[Dominic Engels, Stone’s chief executive] said staking a claim in Berlin is part of Stone’s long-term plans to ‘shape’ the overseas market. The 10th-largest U.S. craft brewery wanted to get a foothold early in Europe, which is chock full of regional influences and countries in different stages of appreciating craft beer.

“‘It’s something we need to start now so it can be of substance later,’ he said. ‘There is no such thing as a homogeneous European approach that makes sense. It’s going to have to be done market by market.'”

The article added that, “Last year only about 132,000 gallons of beer from the U.S. were imported to Europe, [Rodger Wegner, managing director of the Assn. of Export Brewers of Northern, Western and Southwestern Germany] said, out of 172 million gallons imported in total. In 2015, imports accounted for about 6.8% of total domestic consumption, according to the German Brewers’ Federation. By comparison, imports to America made up nearly 16% of total domestic consumption last year, according to the Brewers Assn.

“Imports into Germany — which mostly come from other European countries such as Belgium — have dropped in recent years. Overall sale of German beers, along with domestic consumption, have steadily slipped as well.”

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