Craft Beer

Beginner's guide to stocking US craft beer at your pub

By Sylvia Kopp

- Last updated on GMT

American craft beer exports rose globally by 35.7% in 2014
American craft beer exports rose globally by 35.7% in 2014

Related tags Craft beer Beer Us

Craft beer is the hottest trend in the beer world but the plethora of styles and brands available can be overwhelming. Sylvia Kopp, craft beer ambassador at the US Brewers Association, looks at how best to choose which brands to stock.

The US is widely regarded as the pioneer of craft beers and the use of big bold flavours and innovative brewing techniques over the last 10 years has spawned many imitators. Distinctive, innovative and high quality American craft beers from small US brewers are increasingly in demand by the UK beer drinker.

The latest export figures from the Brewers Association reveal that American craft beer exports rose globally by 35.7% in 2014 with the UK accounting for a 10.7% share (up from 7.9% in 2013) making it the third largest export market behind Canada and Sweden.

The correct selection of brands and formats will help grow beer sales for your business. But with 3,800 craft breweries operating in the US with 1,755 in planning - where do you start?


When developing your craft beer offering stock a diverse range of different beer styles, ABVs, flavours and origins to suit your customers’ varying palates. Craft beer is a perishable product and is best stored cold and consumed as fresh as possible. There are only a few types of brands that benefit from cellaring.

US craft beer3

Craft beer, in its current guise, in the UK is very young and beer drinkers are still learning about what’s good and what’s not. UK and US beer styles may fall under the same name but they are often very different due to the brewery, ABV and flavour profile. There is enough variance between for example, a pale ale from the UK and one from the US to warrant a place on the bar for both.

Having classic examples of popular beer styles in stock like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Anchor Brewing Company’s Anchor Steam Beer or Lagunitas IPA ensures there’s a good barometer.

Use the following as a guide:




Session ales

Founders All Day IPA 

Firestone Walker Easy Jack

James Clay

Vertical Brands

Pale Ales

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale

Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale

Captain Lawrence Freshchester

Westside Drinks

Vertical Brands

James Clay




Sierra Nevada Torpedo Ale

Fordham Route

Harpoon IPA

Lagunitas IPA

Westside Drinks





Brooklyn Lager

Fordham Gypsy Lager

James Clay


Double IPAs

Odell Myrcenary

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

Vertical Brands

Westside Drinks


Bronx Rye

Rogue Dead Guy Ale

Anchor Steam Beer



James  Clay


Left Hand Milk Stout

Saugatuck Neapolitan Milk Stout

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

James Clay



Seasonality and diversity

Seasonality and diversity play a major role in the sale of craft beer with seasonal beers in the US being the second most sold beer style behind American IPA.

Make sure you not only offer hoppy IPAs, the rock star of all craft beer styles, but their dark and toasty counterpart, a stout as well. Enrich your drinks list with a selection of malty styles like brown ales, moderately sour beers like a Berliner Weiss, or fruity and spicy styles like a wheat bock.

You might want to serve darker and stronger beers like American Imperial Stout or Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy in the colder months and freshen up you menu with crisp but flavour-forward lagers and lower alcohol session ales in the summer.

US craft beer2

Playing around with a versatile selection is a good way to surprise and enthuse your customers.

Stouts and porters are very popular for the colder months yet many examples remain sessionable and moderate in alcohol. Dark colour beers does not mean a beer is heavy in alcohol or body. Stouts and porters complement specific food dishes perfectly, especially grilled, roasted and smoked meat, and should be listed on the food menu as alternative, or even superior, to wine.

Stouts and porters tend to have a very loyal following and will make your pub their destination outlet of choice.

Staff training

It’s crucial that bar staff know their beer styles and can influence the purchase of the ‘ringleader’ in a group as his/her friends are likely to follow suit. Enthusiasm, product knowledge and personal recommendations work wonders for sales. Bar staff should know about different brands and flavour profiles as well as how they should be served and what glass to use. Creating ‘theatre’ around the pouring and serving of craft beer will add to the overall drinking experience.


Whether you stock keg, bottle or can depends on the nature of your pub and consumer profile of your clientele. Kegs make a greater impact on the bar but cans are easier and more cost-efficient to transport offering greater profit potential than bottles or kegs.


Once regarded as ‘naff’ cans are now growing in popularity and shaking off their inferior image. Cans keep light and oxygen away from the precious liquid inside so the beer does not get oxidised or light-struck. All in all, can beers stay fresher for longer, cans chill down more quickly, they are easier and more cost-efficient to transport, they don’t shatter and, just like bottles, they are recyclable.

The Brewers Association predicts that cans will continue to grow due to their many advantages and currently 9% of today’s US craft brewers do package in cans.

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Quality control

The Brewers Association seeks to ensure that beer is dated appropriately and kept in a climate controlled environment from the moment it leaves the brewery to the moment it reaches the consumer. A key focus of the BA’s education is on quality beer and ensuring international trade partners understand proper storage and handling techniques, shelf life and the importance of delivering high quality beer to the beer lover. 

It has developed three guides – Best Practices Guide to Quality Craft Beer​, Draught Beer Quality Manual​ and Draught Beer Quality for Retailers​ – to educate the trade on proper storage and handling. All three are available to download from​.

An additional resource tied to beer pairing and presentation is the Beer & Food Course available at​.

Beers to try

Sylvia Kopp Brewers Association

The Brewers Association Export Development Program is responsible for raising the profile of American craft beer globally. As EU craft beer Ambassador I suggest these top tipples to try this autumn:

  • Founders Rubaeus​ 5.7% ABV, fruit ale fermented with Raspberries (available via James Clay)
  • Left Hand Black Jack Porter​ 6.8% ABV, English-style Porter (James Clay)
  • Odell Brombeere​ 4.8% ABV, blackberry gose (Vertical Brands)
  • North Coast Old Rasputin​ 9% ABV, famous imperial stout (Left Coast Distribution)
  • Rogue Ales Marionberry Braggot​ 11.5% ABV, modern take on a historical fruit-and-spice-beer style with honey and marionberries (Euroboozer)
  • Victory Prima Pils​ 5.3% ABV, German-style pils (Vertical Brands)

Sylvia Kopp is the Brewers Association craft beer ambassador

Importer contacts:

  • Adnams – 01502 727200
  • Euroboozer – 01923 263335
  • James Clay – 01422 377 560
  • Left Coast Distribution – 0115 986 6333
  • Vertical Brands – 07902 835016
  • Westside Drinks – 020 8996 2000

The Brewers Association is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts. It represents more than 70% of the brewing industry, and its members make more than 99% of the beer brewed in the US.

All photos: Copyright Brewers Association

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