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So, You Want to Export?

There is growing demand abroad for local, niche products—including beer. Even smaller breweries can tap into that sales channel. Here’s how to evaluate your brewery’s potential to export beer abroad.

Kate Bernot Oct 4, 2021 - 10 min read

So, You Want to Export?  Primary Image

Craft beer enthusiasts in China. Photo: Courtesy Brewers Association Export Development Program

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As global supply-chain disruptions and rising freight costs make headlines, it might seem like a strange time to think about selling your beer abroad. Yet an increasing number of American breweries are finding sales success through exports.

When the Brewers Association’s Export Development Program (EDP) began in 2004, only about 10 to 15 craft breweries were exporting their beer, according to EDP manager Steve Parr. Last year, that number was 180. Over that time, American craft-beer exports increased 1,400 percent and in 2020 were worth an estimated $66 million.

“As our domestic market has grown more competitive,” Parr says, “and as awareness and demand for American beer has grown abroad, U.S. breweries are increasingly considering overseas beer markets to diversify their sales and reach new drinkers.”

There is opportunity there for breweries of all sizes. On a 2021 Craft Brewers Conference panel regarding exports, representatives from two California breweries—Sierra Nevada in Chico and Belching Beaver in San Diego—said that exports have come to represent about 6 to 7 percent of their annual sales. Even if Sierra Nevada produced 1.1 million barrels last year while Belching Beaver produced fewer than 44,000, exports were a way for both breweries to find interested drinkers abroad.

“We [export] as a duty to the people looking for our beer,” says Marc Truex, Belching Beaver’s director of sales. “We abhor the idea that people who want it can’t get our beer.”

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