Sightlines — SweetWater Taps First International Market in Ireland

Austin Ray

THE GIST
Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewing Company will begin exporting to Ireland in September—the company’s first foray into international distribution. The brewery has partnered with Rye River Brewing Co.—a brewery and distribution center for import brands—for placement in Irish pubs.

WHY IT MATTERS
Overseas demand for American craft beer continues to increase, particularly in Western Europe, which saw export development grow 33% in 2015. Ireland specifically—alongside the Netherlands, Thailand, and Taiwan—was one of the fastest growing markets on the planet. No less, the supply in the island country is still relatively small, at least when compared to Canada, which brings in slightly more than half of all exported American craft beer.
 
Speaking with the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Paul Kirbabas, SweetWater’s chief revenue officer said, “Basically, U.S. craft is catching up on the export side,” before adding, “SweetWater is being proactive here, and we expect international exporting to be huge for the craft industry as a whole.” 

Which seems to hint, if indirectly, that Ireland may be SweetWater's first international market, but it certainly won't be its last. Ostensibly, this move should enable the company to establish a presence and identity in Europe, a continent whose thirst for high-quality American beer should only be intensified by Stone’s brewery build out in Berlin, Germany.
 
As for Rye River, having only launched in 2013, partnering with SweetWater instantly bolsters its portfolio of imports, including San Miguel and Innis & Gunn, with a recognizable American brand. However, the company may have its work cut out trying to explain the significance of “420” to Irish drinkers.
 
—Dave Eisenberg
 
READ MORE
SweetWater to begin first international distribution in Ireland [Atlanta Business Chronicle]
American Craft Beer Exports Tops $116 Million [Brewers Association]