The Craft Beer Clan of Scotland

‘Our quest: To share the finest Scottish craft beer:’ Brewers eye up potential of exporting to Asia

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Asia associates Scotland with great whisky, providing a runway for beer, says The Craft Beer Clan of Scotland. Pic: Loch Duich, Scotland (iStock/Maciej Noskowski)
Asia associates Scotland with great whisky, providing a runway for beer, says The Craft Beer Clan of Scotland. Pic: Loch Duich, Scotland (iStock/Maciej Noskowski)

Related tags Craft beer Whisky Scotch whisky Brewing Brewers

Scotch whisky’s revered reputation is providing an opening for a new wave of Scottish beverages in Asia: craft beer.

Whisky’s story and provenance means Scotland is already on the map for Asians, and Scotland’s growing craft beer sector can take advantage of this.

The Craft Beer Clan of Scotland was set up in 2014 to help Scottish craft brewers make the most of export opportunities and increase the reach of their brews, with a particular focus on the attractive Asian market.

The Scottish craft beer scene

There are currently more than 100 craft breweries operating in Scotland, with numbers rising on a monthly basis, according to Scottish Enterprise, Scotland’s main economic development agency.

Innovations in the Scottish craft beer scene range from using whisky casks to age beers, to flavoring brews with heather.

But Scottish brewers face the same challenges as their counterparts worldwide: they may know how to make a great beer, but may lack the expertise when it comes to other aspects of growing a business and a brand.

“Craft brewers are emerging now at a furious rate, but they all need help with new routes to market, particularly exports,” ​the Clan’s director, Christopher Miller, told BeverageDaily. “There are a lot of good products, they get enquiries, win awards, but how do they capitalize on this?”

The Craft Beer Clan of Scotland is a division of JW Filshill International Ltd, a fifth-generation family wholesaler that is also behind the KeyStore convenience store brand in Scotland. 

Miller joined JW Filshill in 2014, hailing from Scottish brewers Caledonian Brewing Company and Harviestoun Brewery. He explains that the mission of the Clan is to team up with Scottish brewers and partners, introducing Scottish craft beer to new drinkers around the world.

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There are more than 40 members of the Clan, including Loch Lomond Brewery, Tempest Brewing Co, Windswept Brewing Co, and Loch Ness Brewery. Craft spirit distilleries are also included.

Why Asia?

The Clan has put a focus on exports to Asia Pacific. Export destinations include China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, UAE, Dubai, and it is in negotiations with further countries.

It’s the opportunity that the brewers see in Asia that is so attractive: the sheer population size, an emerging educated affluent generation, and a desire for western products.

People also understand the quality and heritage behind Scottish products, thanks to the success of Scotch whisky. This provides an opening to talk about craft beer.  

“A lot of Chinese consumers recognize the map of Scotland by whisky region,” ​said Miller. “We’ve got a lot of breweries in the same regions, so we start with the provincial nature, because they understand where different whiskies come from. Then we go into the story of the people and the products.”

On a practical level, the Craft Beer Clan offers a straightforward way for craft brewers to export to Asia. The Craft Beer Clan buys from brewers in pounds sterling, under normal terms. It also has the ability to negotiation the rules and regulations required for selling in Asia.

Another important factor is that the Clan can be on the ground at shows and events in Asia. For example, a trade delegation in partnership with Scottish Development International and various Scottish craft brewers visited Hong Kong at the end of last month, meeting retailers and distributors, networking, and learning about regulations.

Miller says that Asia may not be easiest market to enter, but the Clan believes the region’s long-term prospects are well worth the effort.

Beer aged in whisky casks

The Craft Beer Clan has created its own brews under The Clan Brewing Company. These are matured in Islay, Speyside, Highland and Lowland single malt whisky casks: ‘imbuing them with their own qualities, passing on, for example, flavors of vanilla, oak and sherry, and enhancing the many layers already in the beers themselves.’

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