Green Flash Brewing Co. & Belgian Brewery St-Feuillien Announce Unprecedented New Partnership | San Diego Brewery Brings Flagship IPA to Europe

July 21, 2014

Today, Mike and Lisa Hinkley, Co-Founders of San Diego -based Green Flash Brewing Co. and Dominique Friart, CEO of traditional Belgian-based Brewery St-Feuillien are excited to announce news about the evolution of their ongoing, cross-continental brewing alliance. These innovative breweries have made the decision to advance their relationship from creatively collaborative “sister-breweries” to pioneer new territory as production partners in Europe. After a year of top-secret planning, St-Feuillien and Green Flash are executing plans based on a handshake agreement whereby the legendary Belgian operation will brew, bottle and ship the San Diego craft brewery’s flagship beer, West Coast IPA for broad distribution throughout Europe. Green Flash is thrilled to be the first American craft brewery to bring the freshest available American IPA to market in the region. The first 240 hectoliter batch of West Coast IPA in bottles and kegs is currently shipping from St-Feuillien in Belgium to a hand-selected network of distributors and importers in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Germany and France.

“We’ve been pursuing European distribution of West Coast IPA for some time, however the obvious challenges in delivering fresh IPA to the region have been a huge roadblock,” says Mike Hinkley. “After testing various export scenarios on a small scale, it became apparent that the quality of our IPA when transported to Europe was not ideal and cost-prohibitive for consumers. We were not satisfied with the customer experience and felt we had to come up with a better solution.”

“Last year, I turned to our friends at St-Feuillien and proposed that we work together in our efforts to get fresh West Coast IPA to market in Europe” Hinkley continues. “We are thrilled that Dominique and her team have agreed to allow Chuck (Chuck Silva, Green Flash Brewmaster) to physically brew West Coast IPA using the state-of-the-art equipment at their new facility in Le Roeulx, Belgium.  I am proud that Green Flash is the first US brewery to both brew and deliver locally crafted, fresh American IPA to the European consumer. Working with our friends at St-Feuillien is the most logical and efficient way for Green Flash to introduce high-quality and affordable West Coast IPA in the market.”

Green Flash was driven to pursue the endeavor due to the rapidly growing European demand for US craft beer. According to the US Brewer’s Association, American craft exports have spiked over a one year period by an astounding 46% (from 56,204 barrels in 2012 to 82,058 barrels 2013), a huge jump compared to growth from the previous year when exports to Europe grew by a mere 5.6% (from 2011 to 2012).

Green Flash and St. Feuillien have built a longstanding relationship and produced several successful collaboration beers over the years. The unique bond between these two breweries affords Green Flash the ability to oversee the entire brewing process and work with a trusted ally in the market.

“We have formed a friendship with Green Flash that extends beyond beer collaborations,” states Dominique Friart CEO of Brewery St-Feuillien. “Because of the success of the IPA category in the US, European consumers are interested in further exploring the style as it represents a taste of America. I am very enthusiastic about this program and believe many Europeans - particularly in Scandinavia, Germany, England and Italy – are eager to try this trendy US beer style.”

“Green Flash already has a good reputation in these markets, and I think West Coast IPA is one of the most well balanced IPAs in the world,” continues Friart. “The success of West Coast IPA in Europe hinges on product quality and we are all committed to ensuring the beer is exceptional.”

Last month, Green Flash Brew Master, Chuck Silva returned from one of many trips taken to Belgium over the past year. Chuck has been working closely with St-Feuillien Brewmaster, Alexis Briol to brew West Coast IPA, ensuring that the distinctly hoppy flavor profile of the brand’s most popular beer will be consistent on both continents.  This unparalleled enterprise is the first international craft beer partnership of its kind and will allow the European craft beer consumer to discover Green Flash at its best. The recipe for Green Flash West Coast IPA in Belgium is as close a replica to the US version of the beer as possible – the ingredients include the same hops, malts and the Green Flash house yeast.  Each are produced using the same complex brewing process. The only difference is that the West Coast IPA produced in Belgium is bottle-conditioned to protect beer quality in areas of Europe where unrefrigerated conditions may be unavoidable. 

“As brewing partners, we have always been humbly enthusiastic to learn from one another,” says Green Flash Brewmaster Chuck Silva when describing the evolution of his rapport with St-Feuillien Brewmaster, Alexis Briol. “This mutual respect allows us, as international counterparts, to find common ground and we have worked very closely on our latest endeavor. I have complete faith in Alexi and his team to consistently brew the highest quality West Coast IPA in Europe, hopefully for years to come and will continue overseeing the process as needed.”

For many Europeans, the notoriously hoppy beer style from Green Flash will be a new discovery, but for the growing segment of craft beer lovers in the market, the opportunity to find super-fresh and high-quality American Craft beer from Green Flash will be an exciting prospect. Green Flash is honored to be joining forces with the world-class Belgian brewers at St-Feuillien to satisfy this rapidly growing thirst for specialty craft beer from the US. Both breweries are looking forward to continuing to work on collaborations including production of West Coast IPA and other beers, for many years to come.

This kind of cross-continental trust was nurtured by the two breweries’ long-standing collaborative friendship, which began in 2010 when Green Flash and St-Feuillien brewed their first collaboration, Beer de L’Amite at the original St-Feuillien Brewhouse in Belgium. While neither Green Flash nor St Feuillien executives predicted their relationship would evolve to this level, the new partnership has come to fruition at the right time.

Dominique Friart, CEO of St. Feuillien, visited Green Flash Brewing Co. on a 2009 trip to the United States and was warmly welcomed by co-owners, Mike and Lisa Hinkley. Green Flash has a longstanding history of collaborating with US breweries to create specialty beers, so Mike was very excited to suggest the idea of a cross continental collaboration to Friart.  While exploring the Green Flash facility and tasting the impressive lineup, Friart became increasingly intrigued by the San Diego brewery’s meticulous approach to their craft, taking particular note of the San Diego brewery’s reverent appreciation for Belgian tradition.  After they got to know each other, the CEOs set a date to brew their first beer together.

The first Green Flash collaboration with St Feuillien took place in March 2010 at the St-Feuillien landmark brew-house in Le Roeulx, Belgium. At the time, it was the first beer brewed as an alliance between two American and Belgian family-owned breweries.

The 2010 collaboration resulted in the highly acclaimed Bière De L’Amitié, (i.e. ‘Friendship Brew’), a Blond Belgian Strong Ale, brewed and dry hopped with American Amarillo hops.  That beer is periodically released and distributed internationally by St-Feuillien.  In 2012, the breweries partnered again in San Diego to create the limited release, “Friendship Brew” – unique Black Saison brewed with St-Feuillien’s traditional and secret house spice combination.  In the fall of 2013, St-Feuillien introduced Belgian Coast IPA, as the third Green Flash collaboration. Belgian Coast IPA debuted on the 140th Anniversary of St-Feuillien at the grand opening of the Belgian brewery’s new state-of-the-art facility in Le Roeulx.  This popular collaboration beer is currently being distributed internationally by St-Feuillien.

Green Flash is the second San Diego breweries in just a couple days to announce an expansion into Europe, as Stone Brewing Co. announced last week plans to open a brewery and restaurant in Berlin, Germany.