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Recap: Harpoon Europe Trip

May 11, 2011

The plane back to Boston & final thoughts

This blog entry is from Chris, Regional Sales Manager for Harpoon, reporting live from the annual Harpoon Employee European beer culture trip to Scandinavia. To learn more about the Harpoon Trip to Europe, read this post first.

Hopefully it is evident from the blog that this was a great trip. When we got off the plane in Stockholm, we were greeted by a sports bar called ‘O’Leary’s’, with Boston sports logos all over the windows and memorabilia all over the walls. It was perhaps an omen that we would find some comfort so far away from home, and that omen proved correct.

After visting three great cities in Sweden and Norway, I can assure you that the craft beer scene is alive and well. There are great, creative breweries doing a lot of creating things, and they are aware, for example, not only of flavorful pale ales, but of barleywines, imperial porters, hybrids, and any style imaginable. They are making it all, and they are making it well. It’s a n exciting time to be a craft brewer in Scandinavia, and these people are fortunate to be at the forefront. For all of that excitement, however, there are also significant challenges.

Access to market for small breweries is hard to come by. Draft systems are bought and paid for by larger breweries, and when a four tap system is installed, those larger breweries often pour a single beer through ALL of those taps. It is almost unimaginable that you would walk into ANY bar in America to find a four tap system that pours the same macro lager through all four taps. Combined with a government monopoly retail system off premise that requires breweries to submit styles for distribution throughout the whole country (regardless of market qualities), that system makes it a challenge for small breweries to grow at a reasonable pace and invest in their business. Those breweries are working hard to make sure that they can provide their customers with fresh and flavorful beer, but can have a hard time doing so. In the end, however, it is arguably the customer who can lose most.

It was reaffirming to see the passion displayed by the craft brewers in Scandinavia, and exciting to see their growth. They will continue to do well – the market is obviously there – and they are finding ways to access consumers. They are really at the very beginning of their journey, however. We face similar battles here in America, but I am confident that we are lucky enough to have better variety than what we saw in Europe. I hope that you – wherever you are reading this – don’t need to go to a ‘craft beer bar’ to find flavorful beer in your hometown. It’s a small comfort, but an important one, and one that makes it easier to enjoy a beer with friends and family in the place of our choosing. I give a lot of credit to the brewers of Scandinavia, but am thankful for the systems we have – and for the breweries (Harpoon among them) who have worked so hard to provide fresh, flavorful, local beer to consumers throughout the country.


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