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    Wednesday, 19 September 2007

    More On American Beer In Europe

    My guest article on Hop Talk lamented the lack of American beers in the UK. What I find frustrating is that there is plenty of North American beer available in Scandinavia.

    It is often said how expensive beer is in the Scandinavian countries, yet the love for decent beer is immense.

    Just take a look at these articles 'Canada', and 'USA' at Swedish blogger Mattias Willefors' excellent site.

    All of these beers are available this week in Stockholm. I realise this is a festival list so is not representative of the situation all year round, but North American beers which we don't see in the UK are available on a regular basis in Sweden and its neighbours.

    Generally speaking it is the real beer lovers' pubs which specialise in these imports: bars like Akkurat and Oliver Twist in Stockholm, and The Rover in Gothenburg have a great list of US stuff. But the Systembolaget, which is the Swedish Alcohol Retail Monopoly also has a great selection. The current availability is: Anchor Bock Beer, Anchor Christmas Ale, Anchor Steam Beer, Anchor Summer Beer, Left Hand Black Jack Porter, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn Brown Ale, Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Local 1, Anchor Liberty Ale, Miller, Miller Lite, North Coast Old Stock Ale, North Coast Red Seal Ale, Samuel Adams Black Lager, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Samuel Adams Summer Ale, Samuel Adams Boston Ale, Samuel Adams Octoberfest, Left Hand Sawtooth Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.

    I certainly wouldn't complain if I could buy those beers at my local off licence.


    Ron Pattinson said...

    It's because beer is expensive in Scandinavia that American beer is available there. American beer just costs too much to be viable in most European countries.

    Stonch said...

    I don't think it's terribly surprising that beer that needs to be imported from thousands of miles away doesn't turn up much in the UK.

    It'll only be of interest to a very small number of people, after all.

    My concern is that our shops and supermarkets don't stock enough local beer from British micros.

    maeib said...

    Ron, I am sure you are correct but is it not true that the American stuff is more expensive thsn the local stuff yet i's still popular.

    Stonch, You say it'll only be of interest to a very small number of people. I think the speed with which the US cask stuff sold at GBBF shows there is a market. When DogFish Head sent their World Wide Stout over and it was £6.99 for a 330ml bottle it still sold really well. I think more brewers should at least test the market.

    Bailey said...

    I wonder if part of the appeal of American beer in the UK, though, is that, although our own breweries do make strong/weird/intense beers, the only ones from their ranges that make it to most shop shelves are the bitters, best bitters and blonde ales. American breweries, on the other hand, tend to market and export their more intense beers harder. So, there's an unfair perception that US beers = exciting and British beers = boring.

    Stonch said...

    Maeib, when you talk about the GBBF, you're talking about a one off festival that acts as a magnet for every hardcore beer fan in Britain and many more from abroad. I honestly don't think that the UK market for extreme US beers will ever be anything other than tiny. After all, it isn't even very big in the USA - a point people seem to forget.

    Having said that, in so far as there is an appetite for such beers in Britain, I'd rather the gap was filled by brewers closer to home like BrewDog.

    Mattias said...

    I think it is a bit strange to think that American beers can be available in Sweden just because we have high beer taxes! And due to that could not be sold in other European countries.

    If we have high beer taxes (that we have) and that means that American are extremely expensive, but could you not then get a market in other European countries where they would be cheaper?

    Just because we have expensive beer means that we can tolerate even higher prices is for me very unlogic.

    An American beer cost around the double compared to a normal Euro lager over here, and if there can be a market over here, it is quite logic that it would also work in other countries.

    So "Ron" how can you explain the logic that we have high taxes so that an American is very expensive over here. How can that be the main cause that we have a market over here?

    For me the truth is that how tiny a market can be, it can always be fruitful. American beers in Sweden is not a mass market, but people are actually earning money to sell it and means that at least a couple of pubs and resellers has come to market which makes the world a little bit better within the beer communities in Sweden.

    We have both a large collection of English and American beers at our state owned shops (Systembolaget), and they both should be on the market, some like the English and some the American, I see no conflict between those, it just makes the range so much fun.

    Otherwise if you would reason as some people we would only stick to our Swedish cheap lagers, just because 95% of the market is cheap lagers. 5% is tiny, but it is still a market that we need to support so that it can increase. The US micro market works the same, but that does not mean that we should tolerate only Bud and Coors in the USA. Over 1000 breweries in the USA is making a living of producing exciting brews, and nothing we should see as non existing and uninteresting just because it is small.

    If the UK market for extreme US beers will ever be anything other than tiny, it is still a market and something we should support. Freedom of choice is something we should support; it will always broaden the market and hopefully means that all types of beer can survive.

    Every time I get a person to taste a quality beer and with the result that they like it and hopefully buy it the next time, I feel as doing a good work for the smaller and quality breweries, and it does not matter if the beer is from Sweden, Belgium, England or the USA.

    Mattias said...

    Short reflection to pricing;

    A normal pint of lager in Sweden is; 50 SEK --> 3.59 GBP.

    When available a US-micro beer on draught that has travelled all the way from the US is; 80 SEK --> 5.74 GBP

    A normal pint of ale in England is; 2.75 GBP --> 35.71 SEK. Which means that with a rough calculation this would mean for a US beer in England; 4.40 GBP --> 57.14 SEK

    So for me I can buy a US beer in England for 57 SEK that I pay 80 SEK for in Sweden. That would be a bargain for me, escpecially if I could buy it directly at home.

    So is beer for 4.40 GBP impossible to sell on draught in England?

    I do not think that, the problem must be caused by something else

    Anonymous said...

    Just back from festival. The festival Selection was stunning. Oliver Twists range was good, and great by UK selection. Aukurat did have a great list off beers but given the prices of many of them £16 pound for a 330ml 2006 Bells Expedition stout. There are not many UK pubs that could sell at that price.
    THe Off-licence monopoly didnt have as good a set as those listed having about 60-70% of them (at least in the largest ins stockholm)
    Saying that i managed to come home with a total of 19 bottles a mix of US and Sweedish. mmmmm Craig

    Ron Pattinson said...

    Yes US beers are more expensive than local beers in Scandinavia, but not ridiculously so. When we get American beer here in Amsterdam it's at least double the price of Belgian or Dutch beer.

    Mattias said...

    Yes Ron, that is my point.

    If a quality beer that has travelled from the other side of the world and made by a small craft brewery I do not think that double the price would stop people from buying it.

    I rather buy a great craft beer instead of getting 2 of the normal lagers. And I actually believe that this would be the same thing for many people as long as they get the help to try it at least once.

    Regarding the comment about the beers are so expensive in countries like Sweden it can be interesting to check the figures;

    Tax per hectolitre on beer of 5% alc.vol. or 12º Plato (euro):

    Holland: 25.11 + 19% VAT%age
    Sweden: 81.20 + 25% VAT%age
    UK: 95.50 + 17.5% VAT%age

    So with that it seems that UK would be the country that has the highest prices, and not Sweden. And Holland we can not even compete with, I really understand we buy a lot of crappy beers from Holland and Germany, :).

    Ron Pattinson said...

    Mattias, here in Amsterdam American beer is double the price of an equivalent strength Dutch or Belgian beer. It's four or five times the price of a mass-produced lager.
    Yes, it's even more expensive in Scandinavia than here, but the difference in price between it and standard beer is much smaller.

    If that makes no sense, here's an explanation in numbers:

    example 1
    price 10
    tax 40
    total 50

    price 20
    tax 40
    total 60

    example 2
    price 10
    tax 10
    total 20

    price 20
    tax 10
    total 30

    1 is Sweden, 2 is Holland.

    Mattias said...

    Ok I get it Ron.

    Seems we are "bit" lucky when it comes to very rare beer because of the high taxes and the result of that.

    I think it is the same way for wines over here. Normal and cheap wines are very expensive but if you then compare to a very expensive wine you can often find it for the same price as the wines home country, simply caused by the tax result.

    So when we buy expensive wines it is almost never a better deal to buy it directly in countries like Spain etc.

    Thats probably my last comment about this issue, :).

    Misanthropy Today said...

    (Los Angeles)

    It's interesting when I travel I notice American beers are popular and sort of fancy in Europe.

    We do have some great breweries, but when people are trying to be fancy here they generally drink a European beer. Grass is always greener syndrome I guess.

    Here in the US we think Budweiser, Coors and Miller are sorta crappy (although I like all of them) and I notice other countries have their swill too, but microbreweries seem to be more popular here than in europe.

    I think it started with Samuel Adams, which is a big beer brand that was once small. That sort of opened people up to drinking interesting beers here. Samuel Adams was a brewer and well known patriot (early american rebel type) and im not sure that he started the brewery but it prob helped to move bottles early on.

    This was about 20 years ago.

    I think another thing to note is the politics and fashion of beer.

    For example, a french beer (if it exists) would not go over well but a Belgium beer like Stella is very popular here because nobody here knows where the hell Belgium is, or that its very close to France geographically and somewhat culturally.

    People who fancy themselves as tough pub types drink Guiness and the other british beers.

    Overall, I think trying any beer you can get your hands on is a good idea, no matter where its from.