SABMiller to launch St Stefanus abbey beer

SABMiller to launch St Stefanus abbey beer

SABMiller has moved into Belgium's speciality beer sector by signing a global distribution deal with the Van Steenberge brewery.

The Peroni Nastro Azzurro brewer will launch a speciality 'abbey' beer named St Stefanus in select markets, expected to include the UK, it confirmed today (1 July).

Its deal marks SABMiller's first foray into Belgium's speciality beer sector, where the likes of Anheuser-Busch InBev and Heineken already have a presence, and reflects growing consumer demand for premium, craft beers in mature markets.

“SABMiller takes a keen interest in the development and growth of the global craft beer market," said the brewer's MD for Europe, Alan Clark. "In St Stefanus, we have found exactly what we are looking for – a genuine abbey beer that has remained true to its heritage and offers a high-quality product to a niche, yet discerning, market.”

SABMiller said that the St Stefanus brand name derives from the monastery of Sint Stefanus, "to which the brewery is linked and which still houses an order of Augustinian monks". 

Van Steenberge will remain independent, SABMiller said. Meanwhile, it will only make St Stefanus available in bottles, not on draught.

"St Stefanus is approximately four months old when it leaves the brewery, but the consumer can choose to mature the flavour further by continuing to ferment the beer in its bottle for up to another twenty months," said the brewer.

Jef Versele, commercial director of Van Steenberge, said: "As the industry continues to wake up to the potential of the craft segment, progressive agreements like this will ensure a broader and more varied portfolio for global brewers, product integrity and greater reach for craft producers and, most importantly, more choice for consumers.”

Beer consumption across Western Europe and North America has been falling for several years, but high-end bottled and speciality beers have outperformed the sector.

It is a trend that multinational brewers are increasingly interested in. Last year, Heineken showed interest in acquiring Belgium's De Koninck brewery, before it was sold to Duvel Moortgat, just-drinks understands from industry sources.

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