Jun 26, 2007

Import Beers: Blurring the Lines Even More

Imported beer is inevitably priced higher than domestic throughout both retail and on-premise outlets, thanks to that air of foreign exoticism that comes with overseas travel. But what if that import that you were shelling out an extra dollar or two for wasn't actually brewed overseas?

Beginning in November, Foster's (you know, it's Australian for beer) will be brewed by Miller's Texas and Georgia breweries. But do you think either customers or bartenders will realize that Foster's is no longer an import? Doubtful, especially because they don't seem to even realize that right now Foster's is brewed in...Canada. (And yes, I should qualify this: I'm talking about the Foster's beer sold in the U.S. market.)

Of course, this isn't a new dilemma for beer drinkers or their bartenders. The fact is, most folks don't realize where their beer comes from (or their food, or their clothes). But why does that even matter? Beer is beer, isn't it? Well, not really. If an establishment is going to charge more for an added value—in this case, some relative and intangible element of "foreignness"—they actually ought to deliver that added value, don't you think? Otherwise it's just false advertising.

Another reason why this matters, though not for the average drinker, is that sales numbers for the import segment may be skewed if beers that aren't brewed in foreign lands are counted anyway. It could be argued that this impacts how brewers large and small make marketing and operational decisions.

Then again, we are talking Foster's here.

Do you know where your import comes from?
A few beers that are not brewed in the country they're associated with:

Mackeson's XXX Stout —England: Brewed in Ohio (by Boston Beer Co.)
Kirin Lager—Japan: Brewed in Los Angeles (by Anheuser Busch)
Carlsberg—Denmark: Brewed in Canada (by Labbatt)
Killians Irish Red—Ireland: Brewed in Colorado (by Molson Coors)
Note: Many beer geeks insist that the U.S. drinks Guinness that's brewed in Canada but according to multiple sources (including Guinness' website), only Canadians drink Canadian-brewed Guinness. Supposedly, the U.S. market drinks Guinness imported directly from Dublin.

Another note: The beer origins listed above are for the versions sold to the U.S. market.


erik_flannestad said...

My understanding is the nitrogen draft Guinness in cans, draft bottles, and on tap in pubs comes from Ireland.

However, I believe the carbonated Extra Stout in the older style yellow bottles is brewed and bottled in Canada.

Jessie Jane said...

Hey, thanks for the clarification, Erik. I just can't seem to find any documentation other than rumors, though. It's killing me! It's one of those common knowledge things that I just can't back up as of yet.