Maine Brewers to Send “Beer Box” Across Atlantic Ocean to Iceland

Austin Ray

THE GIST
The Maine Brewers Guild has entered a multi-year partnership with an Icelandic shipping company to help introduce the state’s breweries to beer drinkers in the Nordic island country and, subsequently, bring Icelandic beers back to Maine.

But this isn’t your average international arrangement. The Portland Press Herald reports that Maine’s guild will send the “Maine Beer Box”—a custom-made, branded shipping container full of kegs and complete with 50 built-in taps—to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, for a beer festival. When the kegs run dry, the “Beer Box” will be sent back to Maine, full of Icelandic beer for a festival in Portland this July.

WHY IT MATTERS
If filling a custom-made, branded shipping container full of kegs—that were donated by brewers, who are also on the hook for Iceland’s import tax—and sending it some 2,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean for a beer festival seems like a metric shit ton of effort just to market beers to one of Europe’s smallest populations, rest assured, Maine’s brewers are playing a longer game here. In fact, Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers Guild, says the Icelandic trip is meant to serve as proof of concept for the box itself before committing to shipping it to other, more distant, European markets.

Which makes sense: as has been well established, there is ample and growing demand for American-made craft beer overseas. To that end, the Portland Press Herald reports the box, being manufactured in partnership with the shipping company Eimskip, will land in at least seven countries in the coming years.

But this particular effort to capitalize on that international demand is unique in its scope. Here, it’s not one brand touching down on foreign soil, but rather an entire statewide group of domestic competitors teaming up to do so. Speaking at a press conference, Sullivan suggested this is likely “the first time an entire state’s brewing community has come together to exchange beer with an entire country’s beer brewers.”

Of course, Maine’s brewers are better positioned geographically to try something like this than, say, Kansas’ brewers. But still, the Press Herald reports Maine’s beer exports currently “mirror national trends,” despite that logistical advantage. So if the Beer Box is “setting a trend,” as Sullivan suggests, it’ll be worth following along its ocean-spanning voyages to see if Maine’s overall export business jumps ahead of the national curve.
 
—Dave Eisenberg

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‘Beer box’ with 50 taps for Maine brews going to Iceland aboard Eimskip [Portland Press Herald]