By Baxley Aldworth
Filling John Lennon’s shoes can be a difficult task, unless you’re Pat Graney. Not to be confused with the late Beatles star, John Lennon was the former general manager of International Beverage (Interbev) USA, and Pat Graney is his successor. InterBev, which has no relation to the Belgium-Brazilian beverage company InBev, is a wholly owned subsidiary of ThaiBev. ThaiBev is the maker of Chang beer, which is the leading beer in Thailand and the second most popular beer in Asia. In fact, Chang (which means ‘elephant’ in Thai) is the largest selling Asian beer available in the United States.
InterBev made a fine choice in Graney, whose impressive resume reads like a drink menu. He has assumed senior management positions at FEMSA, Seagram, and Heublein. He was the Vice President of National Accounts at Labatt Blue, the Vice President of Sales for Becks International, and, prior to working for InterBev, he was the general manager for Bacchus Energy Beverage Company.
Besides having the credentials, Graney, a Los Angeles native, also has the pedigree. His father was in the spirits business for thirty five years, and both his brother and brother-in-law also work in the industry as well. Despite his experience and success, Graney just humbly admits to be “pretty knowledgeable” about beer and alcoholic beverages.
What he does know is that there is plenty of room for InterBev and Chang beer to grow in the US. “Chang is the type of beer that people like here, it’s 5% alcohol, and has a clean taste.” However, Graney acknowledges there are still hurdles to overcome. For one, Asian beer has had trouble breaking into the mainstream beer market. This is partly due to the lack of Asian beer variety in Asian restaurants. Graney suggests that Asian restaurants should carry a larger variety of Asian beers. “American consumers prefer choice. A restaurant might sell ten other Thai beers(Chang’s Thai rival) and two Changs, but that’s still an increase of two,” says Graney. Making Chang available in more Asian restaurants would be a boon for both parties. Graney also points out that although Thai and other Asian restaurants are very popular for their food, many customers do not think of them as a place to go to enjoy a beer or two. As a result, Interbev is holding a seminar in New York to converse with Thai restaurants on how to sell beer more effectively.
While Chang is the most important element in InterBev’s portfolio, it’s certainly not it’s only spirituous offering. InterBev also distributes Mekhong rum, which is the only real Thai spirit brand available in the United States. “We’re a spirits company, not just a beer company,” Graney points out. Scotch whiskey drinkers have reason to celebrate because Interbev will soon be offering Balblair and Ancnoc, both high quality single malt scotch whiskeys from Scotland. “Young people are starting to drink scotch again, especially in Europe,” says Graney. “They’re also great for mixing into cocktails.”
Despite bringing Scottish scotch into the fold, Graney says the focal point is still on the Thai beer Chang and the Thai restaurants that make up its core business. “We’re allocating money to support the Thai community. We really believe in the beer,” Graney says. And with good reason. Chang has won four major beer testing competitions recently, including the gold medal at the Great American Beer Championship. “This company has traveled around the world to find the best ingredients. The hops used in Chang actually come from a valley in Oregon. The best hops in the world come from the northwest United States,” says Graney. InterBev hopes the same can soon be said about beer that comes from Thailand.
For more information on Chang beer, including recipes for cooking with Chang, visit their website at www.changbeer.com.