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Bringing British beer to the Balkans

On 16/08/13

At home the big beer event of the year has been the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF). On the other side of Europe, around 1,300 miles away, a totally different beer festival has been taking place. The Belgrade Beer Festival is an outdoor festival, attracting around half a million people. Many global and local brands are represented, and for the first time British beers were represented. The festival also doubles up as one of the region's largest music festivals.

The local UKTI team had identified the festival as an important opportunity for British brewers to make an impact in a part of the world in which they are underrepresented. Serbia is an important country in the region. Whilst still outside of the EU it continues to act as an important cultural hub, attracting tourists and businesses from neighbouring countries like Hungary, Croatia and Bulgaria.

The UK presence was the GREAT British pub. The GREAT branding was prominently displayed on, and inside, the 'pub'. The nation’s beers were represented by Fuller's, Shepherd Neame, Wychwood and Bath Ales. Despite the British beers selling for a premium, about 50 per cent more than local brews, the pub was constantly full for the first two days. In fact it's predicted that the locals will have drunk the British stand dry by the time the festival draws to a close on Sunday.

The festival gives a fantastic opportunity to showcase British beers to consumers, but it's obviously crucial to strike up deals with local distributors and retailers so that their thirst can be slaked. With this in mind the British Embassy hosted an event, at the rather more sedate Ambassador's residence, on day two of the festival. Bar owners, supermarket buyers, importers and local media were invited along to try the British festival beers, added to by samples provided from St. Austell, Hobson's, Great Yorkshire Brewery and a number of others.

The event was a success with a number of contacts made, and much press coverage generated. Local TV coverage of the festival has featured British beer prominently and a number of newspaper articles are expected in national dailies. The Embassy team will be collating these to circulate to the participating brewers.

Whilst not a natural target market for UK brewers this area of Europe is up-and-coming and could see significant growth. There also appears to be a growing demand for niche products, to sit alongside the established brands. British beers can fill this space, in bars, hotels and shops. This year was a great start and, fingers crossed, by the time of next year's festival there will be British beers to buy outside of the festival grounds.


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