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Start-up beer exporter shipping East Coast craft beers to the UK

Bringing coals to New Castle? Not exactly, says the founder of newly launched Crafted Exports, which is shipping kegged craft beer to London pubs.

Bartender at London's Hop & Berry pub pours a glass of  American craft beer

Bartender at London’s Hop & Berry pub pours a glass of American craft beer, Haproon UFO

By Alan J. Wax

A Brooklyn, New York, entrepreneur and his partners are attempting to capitalize on surging UK interest in American craft beer with a start-up business that is exporting U.S. craft beers and ciders to England.

Crafted Export's Peter Schneider

Crafted Export’s Peter Schneider

Peter Schneider, a former sales rep for Brooklyn-based Union Beer, and his partners in Crafted Exports Inc.   have sent their first shipment to London, where the beers are being distributed by UK importer Euroboozer Ltd.

Schneider’s partners in Crafted are Qurban Singh Walia, Schneider’s former colleague in a consulting business and an executive at a brewery in India, and Peter McNulty, a manager at a New York City marketing firm and former operations manager at Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewing Co.

Now four years out of George Washington University, where he received a BA in economics, Schneider began formulating plans for the beer export business some 18 months ago.

Craft beer, he said, “has always been an interest of ours. We like the way that craft beer … helps people become more thoughtful about what they’re consuming.”

The company’s initial shipment, which reached pubs last month, included such brands as Harpoon from Boston and Bronx Brewery, Captain Lawrence, Butternuts Beer & Ale, and Doc’s Cider, which are all from New York. “We wanted to bring over beers we liked and were geographically together,” he said, “We wanted to keep a reliable, fresh supply chain. We wanted a portfolio that cut across boundaries a little bit.”

A second shipment already is at sea. “We’ve been getting a lot of great feedback,” Schneider noted.

Crafted Exports' current beer export portfolio

Crafted Exports’ current beer export portfolio

Crafted’s East Coast-oriented portfolio made it possible to ship beers more quickly to the UK, Schneider said. “Our main focus to get beer to the consumer as fast as possible.” That meant, he said, “changing the supply chain. “

Crafted leases 30-gallon steel kegs from a third-party logistical provider, which delivers them to the breweries and then recovers them in the UK, where they are cleaned, refilled with different product and shipped back to the U.S. Crafted buys the beer from each brewery, aggregates the kegs at a New Jersey warehouse before shipping them in temperature-controlled containers to the UK, where importer Euroboozers takes over.

The beers are being poured strictly at bars and restaurants. The brews were launched on July 22 at the Hop & Berry, a pub that hitherto offered only beers brewed in London. Pints of the American beers at the Hop & Berry sell from £5.20 (about $8) to £6 (about $9.35). Other pubs offering the beers include the well-known White Horse at Parson’s Green and the Draft House mini-chain.

The American brewers are excited to enter these new markets, Schneider said, noting that brewers often receive requests to export their products, but ignore them due to logistical issues. Schneider said Crafted’s platform got the brewers’ attention to ship to such markets such as London, which offer new growth.

“For a couple of young enterprising guys it was quite refreshing to see the level of drive and effort they put in prior to pitching their proposal,” said Chuck Williamson, owner/operator at Butternuts in Garrattsville, New York.

As for having his beer in the UK, Williamson said, “I think it is a great thing for Butternuts Beer & Ale. I have for years had requests from UK consumers that have come to New York City and had the Pork Slap in particular and wanted to know if they can get it when they get home.” Williamson said “It was good timing really for me,” he added, noting that he’d talked exporting with other firms, “We will see where the next few years takes us, but I think in general U.S. export of beers, done right, will be a great thing for our industry.”

And while bringing beer to the UK, where in 2014 there were 1,285 breweries—more breweries per person than anywhere in the world, may seem like shipping coals to Newcastle, Schneider says there’s keen interest among British drinkers in American craft beer. “This is an exciting new opportunity.”

Added Euroboozer founder Martyn Railton, who already imports Rogue Ales: “America has some of the most unique craft beers, breweries and beer characters in the world so it’s great to be working with some of the best of them. Our American range has been seeing double digit year-over-year growth and with the trend for American food booming within the pub, restaurant, casual dining, street food and wider foodservice sectors, to use an American saying – I expect all these beers will knock it out of the park!”

The beers being marketed in the UK include:

Harpoon IPA, a 5.9% ABV New England-style brew.

Harpoon UFO, a 4.8% Belgian-style wit.

Bronx Session IPA, a 5.0% ABV brew.

Bronx Rye Pale Ale, a 6.3% brew produced with malted and flaked rye.

Captain Lawrence Freshchester Pale Ale, a 5.5% ABV West Coast-style brew.

Captain Lawrence IPA, a 6.5% brew.

Butternuts Pork Slap Pale Ale, a 4.3% beer brewed with a touch of fresh ginger.

Butternuts Moo Thunder Stout, a 4.9% ABV milk stout that pays tribute to the Butternuts Brewery’s former life as a dairy.

Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider, a 5% ABV semi-dry, effervescent cider.

Doc’s Draft Dry Hopped Hard Cider, a 5.5% ABV dry-hopped cider.

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Pour the Core Cider Festival: Tasting the tart, the sweet and the unusual

 

The scene at Pour the Core Festival at Peconic Bay Winery

Pour the Core, the cider fest at Peconic Bay Winery, couldn’t have been better. The sky was blue, the temperatures comfortable and the ciders plentiful.

Some 700 people attended this first-ever cider festival on the Long Island’s North Fork on Oct. 20 and some 26 producers poured almost 50 different ciders. Also, there were wines from the festival’s host and beers from five brewers, food from Riverhead’s Maple Tree BBQ and well as t-shirt purveyors and, gasp, a cigar seller (those fumes overwhelmed the delicate apple scents of ciders being poured too near).

Pouring True Believer Cider at Pour the Core.

For me, this event was about cider. Many producers offered fruit and spice flavored cider variations, but purist that I am, I shunned most them.

The choices included a dozen from New York, others from New Hampshire, Vermont, California and Oregon, a handful from England and one from Spain. Alas, none of the wonderful farmhouse ciders of Normandy, France, were to be found.

Still, there were many wonderful ciders to taste. Ciders made from eating apples, ciders from cider-specifc apples (such as crab apples), single varietal ciders and blends. There were ciders almost as full bodied as some beers and, regrettably, some that were little more than flavored water. There were ciders fermented with cider yeast, Champagne yeast, and even ciders produced using Irish Stout and Belgian Trappist ale yeasts. There were apple ciders, pear ciders (called perry in England), ciders made from concentrated apple juice with added water, and some with added malic acid and sugar and other sweeteners. Lord knows why. And, yes, a hopped cider.

Festival participants appeared to like McKenzie’s Seasonal Reserve

My tasting notes (ciders listed alphabetically):

Anthem Hopped Cider.  From Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Oregon. Honey Crisp, Gala, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious apples form the base. It’s dry hopped with Cascades. Apple cider meets Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Weird.

Angry Orchard Traditional Dry, Boston Beer Co.’s entry, is golden with intense, complex apple flavors.

Aspall Dry Draft Suffolk Cyder. From England, this off-dry, balanced cider offers up baked apple flavors.

Bellwether Liberty Spy, from the Finger Lakes. A hearty semi-dry cider made from Liberty and Spy apples. Comes off more dry than sweet.

Blackthorn, an English cider. Tastes like a bad chemistry experiment. Why is this a worldwide top seller?

Cliffton Dry Premium Cider. Paler than pale, a Finger Lakes cider with 14 apple varieties, added sugar and malic acid.  Light, easy drinking, like Corona beer, but where’s the apple flavor?

Castañón Natural Cider, an extremely dry, tart Spanish offering with notes of funk. Think Cantillon lambic beer.

Crispin Landsdowne. From MillerCoors. Made with molasses, organic honey and Irish Stout yeast, this cloudy cider is for gingersnap fans.

Doc’s Hard Apple Cider, from the Warwick Valley Winery in the Hudson Valley.  Sweet without being cloying with just a touch of acidity.

Farnhum Hill Door Yard No.1212, from New Hampshire’s Poverty Hill Orchards in, this kegged cider was still, extremely dry, earthy with a zingy citrus-like finish.

Harvest Moon Rippleton Original. From Cazenovia, NY, this is light-bodied, but deeply flavored, bubbly, extra dry cider made with champagne yeast and a touch of maple syrup for bottle conditioning.

Magner’s Original Irish Cider: Red tinged, bubbly, sweet apple water.

McKenzie’s Original Hard Cider, from the Buffalo area, is flavorful, medium-bodied, crisp dry cider.

McKenzie’s Seasonal Reserve Hard Cider. Not  my cup of cider, but extremely popular among festival attendees for its apple-pie-in-a-glass character derived from added nutmeg and cinnamon.

Michelle Ultra Light Cider, pale in color and tasting like water kissed by apples. Why bother?

Naked Flock Hard Cider Original, from the Applewood Winery in Warwick, NY, Made with Champagne yeast and local organic honey. The honey is quite evident.

Naked Flock Hard Cider Draft, fermented with Belgian Trappist ale yeast with a hint of organic maple syrup, this cider has a complex flavor profile without the tang you’d sometimes get from the maple.

Peconic Bay Winery True Believer:  Bubbly, honeyish. Tart and sweet baked apples with cinnamon. Finishes dry.

Peconic Bay Winery True Companion. Molasses and orange peel added. A deep golden cider, drier that True Believer and with more depth of flavor and balance.

JK Scrumpy’s Farmhouse, from Michigan. Deep, sweet baked-apple flavor.

Steampunk Cider from the Leonard Oakes Estate in the Niagara Region, a blend of 13 apples, including traditional bitter-sweet apples and the more familiar Fuji and Braeburn. Sweetish, but has nice crisp, tart apple notes and a dry finish.

Strongbow: A UK import that’s crisp, bit tinny in the finish. Made from concentrate with sugar, water.

Wandering Aengus Ciderworks 2009 Wickson: Single variety crab apple cider from Salem, Ore. Dry as brut Champagne with Riesling-wine like flavors.

Wandering Aengus Ciderworks Wanderlust: Dry with bold apple flavors. Defintely a favorite.

Wandering Aengus Ciderworks Bloom. Crisp, juicy, semi-sweet apple, tropical fruit character with Chardonnay like finish. Another winner.

Woodchuck Amber, from Vermont. Apple soda with a moderately long finish. Carmel color added.

Woodchuck Dark. Crisp apple notes.  Some tartness and dryness. Added flavor, caramel color.

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