B.C.'s craft beer taking off in Asia — where a pint can cost up to $25
High import tariffs quadruple price in some places but that’s not halting demand
British Columbia's craft beer scene is booming — and not just locally.
Seven B.C. craft brewers now have beers in the Asia-Pacific region, all part of a growing lucrative market for B.C. beer overseas. Just this month, Parallel 49 Brewing was in China to launch its beer there.
"[The market in Asia] is just budding, but it's catching up extremely fast," said Dan Wainwright, the president and co-founder of Pacific Rim Distributors.
For the past two years, he's been connecting local craft brewers to markets across Asia.
The spiking interest has to do in part with an expanding middle class in places like China, Wainwright said, where people are increasingly interested in purchasing luxury or imported goods. A growing exposure to different kinds of craft beer furthers intrigue about the beverages.
"When someone gets into craft beer, that really opens up their mind and palate to a whole bunch of different tastes," he told Renee Filippone, the guest host of CBC's The Early Edition.
Right now, Northeastern IPAs with a sweet melon flavour are doing particularly well, but the trends switch as quickly as they do in B.C., Wainwright said.
Challenges and costs
Exporting craft beer to a foreign market is not without challenges, though.
Beyond the usual paperwork and communication with trade commissioners, there are logistical challenges of shipping and storing a product like craft beer that is not pasteurized and so has a short shelf life of about six months.
High import tariffs, more than 100 per cent in some places like Vietnam and Singapore, drive the price of a pint through the roof.
"For a normal [local] beer, you are looking at a buck or two — for craft beer, you're looking at anywhere between $12 to $25 US a pint," he said.
That means distributors, like Wainwright, are looking for different approaches to cut costs because as more local competition for craft beer comes onto the market, that price will go down.
But in some places, like Thailand, where local craft beer is hard to come by because of the lobbying of big beer companies, the cost is part of the appeal.
"You're not only successful if you're drinking craft beer, because it's expensive, but also, you're a rebel because it's kind of illegal [in Thailand]," Wainwright said,
"They are trying to stop craft beer in those markets but what they've done is made it cool. It's rebellious."
With files from The Early Edition.