Hop Take: Heineken Heads to China, the World’s Largest Beer Market


4 minute Read

Hop Take: Heineken Heads to China, the World’s Largest Beer Market

In a deal worth more than $300 million, Heineken is joining forces with China Resources Enterprise (CRE) and China Resources Beer (CR Beer), the largest beer company in the world’s largest beer market. CRE and CR Beer reportedly acquired seven of Heineken’s businesses as part of a long-term strategic partnership in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

In August, Heineken acquired a 40 percent stake in China Resources Beer for $3 million. Pending regulatory approval, the transaction is expected to go through in 2019.

“I am pleased we have quickly come to definitive agreements with CRE and CR Beer to join forces in China,” Jean-François van Boxmeer, Heineken chairman of the executive board and CEO, said in a release. “Our long-term strategic partnership will help Heineken to significantly expand the availability of the Heineken brand, and will strengthen CR Beer’s offering in the rapidly growing premium beer segment in China.”

The Chinese beer market is riding the wave of its growing middle class, and Heineken is along for the ride. But beyond this behemoth of a beer partnership is a shift in China’s beer-buying habits. Heineken may be stylish for now, but I see a growing craft beer market on the horizon.

Along with flashy cars, clothes, and falling stars, Chinese consumers are interested in imported goods. If our country’s beer patterns are any indication, after imports comes home-grown innovation. And with Chinese craft breweries like Beijing’s Great Leap making a splash in beer’s inner circle — not to mention ABI’s acquisition of Boxing Cat, and launch of Goose Island brewpubs in Shanghai — I see a bright future for beer here. Especially craft beer.

The Beer That Pissed Off Trump: A Documentary

This week, two beer documentaries were released: “The Beer Jesus From America,” in which Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch embarks on a visionquest to launch a brewery in Germany (can you hear my eyes rolling?); and “F*** Your Hair,” following 5 Rabbit Cerveceria’s dramatic breach of contract with the Trump Tower Chicago in 2015.

I’ll admit Koch’s quest is intriguing, and the film appears to be shot beautifully. “F*** Your Hair,” however, despite its silly title, examines the extremely volatile political crossroads many craft brewers and consumers find themselves at today.

That is to say: The beer brewers are selling inherently has an effect on the public. Who we as consumers support with our dollars matters.

Beer is political. When 5 Rabbit’s owners, who are Latino, heard then-presidential hopeful Donald Trump casually allege that Mexican immigrants were bringing drugs, crime, and rape into the United States, they took a stand. The brewery promptly renamed the beer it had sold to Trump’s hotel bar Chinga Tu Pelo (in English, “F*** Your Hair”), and cut that account, risking its business. Today, a line of Chinga Tu Pelo merchandise continues to support organizations such as Latinos Progresando and Sweet Water Foundation.

I wholeheartedly respect this. 5 Rabbit is not without its flaws — the brewery has previously been embroiled in several lawsuits involving internal finances — but this decision was really admirable. It’s hard to prioritize ideals over economics, but it’s vital to do so.

Ditto for beer drinkers. The beer you’re buying is the business you support. When brewers take a stand for basic human rights, we should applaud them. And when we’re buying our next pint, we should think about where that money is going.

U.S. Brewery Count Blasts Past 7,000

Earlier this year, the Brewers Association speculated the U.S. would be home to 7,000 breweries by the end of 2018. That milestone has come and gone. The BA announced on Tuesday that the U.S. brewery count has officially surpassed 7,000, reaching 7,082 by Oct. 31.

Reaching this milestone also means there are 1,100 more operating breweries than at this time last year. And that’s not all: According to BA chief economist Bart Watson, there are 2,000-plus more breweries forthcoming.

Now is both a good and difficult time to be a craft beer drinker. More breweries mean more competition, and some might argue we don’t need another thousand IPAs on our draft menus.

However, my feeling is, there’s always room for more beer. If these new brewers can come up with some new ideas by tweaking a style or offering locally sourced creations, more power to ‘em. Furthermore, if young bucks stick to serving their local communities and creating a meaningful, singular experience for their patrons — by offering quality products at their taprooms — I believe they have a good chance at succeeding. For those trying to bust out another regional player, good luck to you.

Top-Poured Beers at Self-Serve Bars Are Not What You Think

iPourIt, a self-serve beer technology company, released a report of its most-poured beers, ciders, and wines. The data spans more than 45.5 million ounces of beer and 2 million ounces of wine poured from 125 bar and restaurant locations between September 2017 and September 2018.

The results are somewhat surprising. Among the “top” lists — which include top 50 craft beers, top 10 domestic beers, top 20 import beers, and top 10 ciders — are brands that rarely make beer nerds’ “best” lists.

The leading craft beer, at nearly 250,000 ounces poured, is Firestone Walker 805. The blonde ale was released with little fanfare compared to the brewery’s other brands like Firestone Lager or its line of IPAs, yet it beat out Blue Moon’s 153,000 ounces and came close to Coors Light’s 269,000 ounces.

Following Firestone Walker 805 and Blue Moon Belgian White are Narragansett Lager, Lost Coast Brewery Tangerine Wheat, and Station 26 Brewing Juicy Banger — a flavored wheat beer, a lager, and a juicy IPA, respectively.

Top imports included Modelo Especial, Stella Artois, Delirium Tremens, Lindemans Framboise, and Grapefruit Radler. So, while Mexican imports unsurprisingly dominate, Belgian and German beers aren’t too far behind.

iPourIt’s data, although representative of an admittedly small sample of beer drinkers, shows one advantage of self-serve beer operations: choice. When given the chance, beer drinkers are willing to expand their horizons and try a variety of styles. Yes, Bud Light and Coors Light still top the list overall, but with Firestone Walker at a close third, and a juicy IPA not far behind. The future is now, friends.

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