Seattle Exporter Helps Local Craft Breweries Reach Growing Taiwan Market

June 9th, 2010 · 7 Comments · Beer Travels, General Beer News, Washington Breweries

It can be tough enough for craft beer drinkers outside of the state of Washington to find some of our locally brewed beer, let alone finding it in another country. That’s why I was so interested to hear that a local business was recently started to export Northwest craft beer across the Pacific to Taiwan. According to Nathan Atkins, owner of Cascadia International Distribution, good beer has been “filtering in” to the Taiwan market since 2005, and people there are excited about trying new offerings. Cascadia has been working with select local breweries to source beer for export, and the company just sent its second shipment of beer to Taiwan at the end of May. Scuttlebutt, Elysian and Fish Tale/Leavenworth are the breweries that Cascadia has been working with so far. Nathan was kind enough to answer some of my questions below, so keep reading for more information.

1) For those of us that know nothing of the beer industry and demand for good beer in Taiwan, can you tell us more about what the scene is like over there?

Taiwan only actually opened it’s doors up to any beer in 2002 when they joined the WTO, even after that though they had heavy Tariff’s on any beer. Those mostly came off in 2005 and now they just have what I would say is a “normal” Tariff amount. So the beer market until then was dominated by the Government “Taiwan beer and Tobacco” company that makes three types of bad (IMO), cheap, lager. After 2005 beer started filtering in, Heineken, Miller, Busch, (not too much Bud actually), are all over there. In terms of “good” beer, they focus mostly on the Belgium and German imports with American beers still seen kind of as second (or third) rung. North Coast, Anchor Steam, Rogue, and a couple of others are over there but it is really a new market for American micro-brews. In addition they have a handful of their own Microbreweries that are based there, Gordon Biersch, Le ble D’or ( both have brew pubs there, and there are a couple of basement types doing things like Banana and lychee beer. In general, people are used to lighter beers and so that’s what we’ve mostly been focusing on, but last time I was there I brought over a bottle of Abyss and they LOVED it, so we might start looking into darker beers as well. People over there are just hungry for something new!

2) How did Cascadia International Distribution come about, and how long have you been exporting beers to Taiwan? Do you have plans to export anywhere else?

Cascadia was originally started by myself and Yuhang Lin, We went to Seattle U together and after class would head up to the Elysian all the time. Well after we graduated, he went back home Taiwan and realized the lack of American micro-brews and saw the opportunity there. Specifically we were thinking about Elysian’s Avatar Jasmine IPA, So we started getting all of our licenses on both sides of the water, which takes FOREVER. In the mean time I brought in another friend of mine who has more exporting and supply chain management experience (Yuhang and I are both sales and marketing focused), and Arthur Schile joined up. Summer is Taiwan’s “Beer Season” so we are trying to get everything ready for that. We’re thinking about putting together a little “American beer” sampler pack. One thing that is great about Taiwan is that you are allowed to give out free samples of alcohol in the stores. So instead of going to Costco and trying 10 different chicken nuggets and what not, they give you little shot glasses of beer! Initially we are focusing on higher end bars and resturants for the 22oz bottles and higher end retail outlets for the 12oz. We are planning on just focusing on Taipei and Taiwan for this summer but are putting out feelers to Japan, Hong Kong and Shanghai to try and get beer there as well.

3) What beers have you been exporting?

We sent our first shipment that consisted of Elysian Avatar, Fish tale Amber Ale, and Leavenworth Hef in Feb and we’ve pretty much sold that out already. So the second shipment went out on the 21st of May and was a 75 cases of Elysian (Avatar mostly, but also Imortal IPA and ESB) and 72 cases of Scuttlebutt.

4) Have breweries been receptive to the idea of sending their beer that far overseas?

Breweries have been very cool about sending their beers out. Everyone we’ve dealt with has been very supportive; Dave and Dick at Elysian, and Phil, Scuttle, and Phil Jr. at Scuttlebutt have been awesome. Fishtail has been very helpful as well.  It seems like there is a certain amount of community in this industry as we all kind of rely on each other to move forward. Distributors and retailers need quality beer to sell and breweries need passionate distributors and retailers to bring their product to the people. There are obviously shelf life issues but so far we’ve been moving beer quick enough that hasn’t been an issue at all.

If you’d like to continue to follow Cascadia, you can become a fan on Facebook.

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