Back in high school, I’d obsessively flip through my local record store’s racks for the freshest indie-rock darling, something to jingle-jangle my teenager ears just right. Fast-forward a few decades, and my obsession is now beer shops’ fridges, rustling through their cool, illuminated recesses for the fresh new thing.
That’s how, on a recent winter afternoon at Brooklyn’s Covenhoven, my gaze locked on a few foreigners clad in uncommon garb. Germany’s subtly smoky Schlenkerla Helles and Birrificio Italiano’s generously hopped Tipopils were canned, cold imports wearing American beer’s trendiest armor.
I palmed the cans, seeking the packaging information with an archaeologist’s fervor. Perhaps this was another case of contract brewing, Evil Twin or Omnipollo hiring breweries to pump out Stateside product. Schlenkerla’s label explained that the beer was brewed in Bamberg, Germany, and canned in Connecticut, while Tipopils’s label proclaimed the beer was brewed in Italy and canned fresh in Oxford, Connecticut. That city is the headquarters of their shared importer, B. United International.
Brewed overseas. Packaged stateside. Distributed on the double. These were aluminum unicorns, a dream made real by B. United. “The beers are brewed where they’re supposed to be brewed but have the freshness of a locally brewed beer,” says B. United packaging manager Ben Neidhart.