CryptocurrencyLeadershipInvestingClimate ChangeMost Powerful Women

Foreign markets thirsty for America’s craft beer

March 24, 2015, 4:46 PM UTC
Burgeoning Craft Beer Industry Creates Niche Market For Limited Release Beers
SANTA ROSA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Russian River Brewing Company customers clink their glasses while drinking the newly released Pliny the Younger triple IPA beer on February 7, 2014 in Santa Rosa, California. Hundreds of people lined up hours before the opening of Russian River Brewing Co. to taste the 10th annual release of the wildly popular Pliny the Younger triple IPA beer that will only be available on tap from February 7th through February 20th. Craft beer aficionados rank Pliny the Younger as one of the top beers in the world. The craft beer sector of the beverage industry has grown from being a niche market into a fast growing 12 billion dollar business, as global breweries continue to purchase smaller regional craft breweries such this week's purchase of New York's Blue Point Brewing by AB Inbev. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images

America’s craft beer industry isn’t just taking away market share from Budweiser, Miller and Coors. It’s starting to impact brewers in other countries as well.

Craft beer export volume was up by 35.7% in 2014 for a total of $99.7 million, according to the Brewers Association, the trade group for American independent craft brewers.

“Small and independent brewers are spreading the culture and community of craft beer around the globe,” said Bob Pease, CEO of the group. “Beer drinkers internationally are embracing the innovation and flavors offered by American craft brewers.”

Brazil showed the biggest surge of interest in American craft beer, with year-over-year export growth to the country surging 64%. The Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan) saw a 38% increase. Western Europe was up 37% and Canada and Japan both posted 32% jumps.

In terms of total consumption, Canada took in the most beer – some 53% of all total exports. Sweden came in second with 12%. The United Kingdom accounted for 10%. Australia and South Korea took the fourth and fifth spots, while Japan imported less craft than in previous years.

At present, roughly 80 small and independent craft brewers export their beers, according to the Brewers Association’s Export Development Program. Total export shipments came in at 383,422 barrels – less than 2% of the total amount of craft beer that’s brewed in the U.S.

“I think there’s a lot of curiosity around the world about American craft beer,” says Brendan J. Moylan, proprietor of Marin Brewing Co. and Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant. “In a lot of the older countries there’s an old-school mentality that has left pretty generic guidelines for what beermakers are making. The craft beer scene in America has let us be free and make whatever the heck we want.”

Moylan’s breweries distribute in Australia, Japan, Denmark, Italy, England and Brazil – and he says he increased exports slightly in 2014, but because his breweries don’t have a lot of extra capacity, he’s limited in what he can export.

Generally, he says, overseas interest tends to run towards the bigger, extreme beers of craft makers – including double and triple IPAs.

The increase in exports goes hand in hand with a continuing surge of interest in the U.S. Craft beers accounted for one out of every 10 beers sold domestically last year – with small and independent brewers accounting for 11% of the total beer market.

The craft industry’s goal is to account for 20% of the market by 2020.

Last year, there were 3,418 craft breweries operating in the U.S. Compare that to just 44 breweries (large and small) in 1980 and 537 in 1991. By the end of the year, experts say, there will be a new craft brewery opening in the U.S. every 12 hours.

That has led to some consolidation as big brewers like Anheuser-Busch and Miller-Coors have quietly been acquiring smaller breweries – and spending big money to disparage the industry in a much-discussed ad during the Super Bowl.

Despite the advances, though, some brewers remain frustrated with distribution laws in the U.S., which make it difficult – and sometimes impossible – to enter new markets.

“It is easier for me to see beer overseas than it is in my own neighborhood or across state lines – and that’s ridiculous,” says Moylan. “America should not be standing in the way of small businesses.”

Watch more business news from Fortune: