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International Beer in the “Drink Local” Era

Where do imported beers fit into today’s “drink local” craft beer picture?

That’s the question importers are trying to answer.

Artisanal Imports brings in beer from many popular European breweries you will find at Craft Beer Cellar stores across the country, including La Trappe, Sunner, Bosteels (makers of Kwak and Tripel Karmeliet), Vander Ghinste, Veltins, St. Feuillien, and more. And Artisanal is attempting to maintain and grow its space in today’s craft beer market with a public relations initiative that reaches out directly to bottle shops, bars and restaurants.

Lanny Hoff, Senior Vice President and Brands Manager at Artisanal, says he hopes that knowledge and those stories will be passed along to customers constantly seeking different beers.

“American beer consumers are extremely adventurous,” said Hoff. “They want to try things. They’re not gonna stick with one brand. There’s this urge to try new things and to explore. And then the other part of that is, the things they’re hearing about are mostly local beers, so that’s what they’re asking about.

“The challenge we have, in a nutshell, is getting the word out.”

Hoff admits the focus on local beer has provided plenty of challenges for importers to keep their share of the market. Local beers are certainly the best sellers at all of Craft Beer Cellar’s 32 locations, but we also strongly believe in our international selection. These are some of the best beers on the planet.

german beer sunner kolsch stange glassware
Sunner Kölsch, pictured with the traditional “stange” glass, is a classic of the style.

Styles that originated in Europe, such as pilsner and kölsch, have seen increasing popularity in the American craft beer scene.

Whether this has a knock-on effect for international beers in these styles remains to be seen.

“Here’s what I hope: having a local brewery make a really good version of kölsch… my hope is that people try that style, they become intrigued with it, and then they want to explore a little bit,” said Hoff. “I’m not sure we’re in a period of the beer business, at the moment, where that’s happening as much as I’d like to see. But, hopefully, that’s what takes place.”

Over the last six weeks, Artisanal has ramped up its messaging – via press releases and social media – regarding new beers coming into the country. This is in addition to pre-existing marketing initiatives that you already see at Craft Beer Cellar stores, such as King’s Day (a Dutch holiday, where we feature beers from La Trappe, coming up on April 27) and “Hot Sunner Nights” in the summer.

Whether this initiative will be successful, Hoff says, depends on sales and overall response and interest from retailers.

“I already think, provisionally, the level of engagement from the market is a success,” said Hoff. “I think that’s going to accelerate. I think we’re actually going to, as time goes by, have more people like [Craft Beer Cellar] reaching out to us.”

If you’re interested in trying these, or any other amazing international beers, ask a Beer Geek at your Craft Beer Cellar today.

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