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Sebastiani to Market Chinese Beer

Changlee Beer, China’s largest brewery, has signed on with Sebastiani Vineyards of Sonoma, Calif., as distributor for the United States and Canada. State-owned Changlee produced nearly 8 million cases of beer last year.

Bob Carroll, Sebastiani’s vice president for marketing, said Changlee is being successfully test-marketed in Chinese restaurants in Florida, Georgia and Texas, and will begin national operations in January. The first-year aim, he said, is to sell 100,000 cases, or 225,000 gallons.

Carroll described Changlee, which is made in Guangdong province near Hong Kong, as a heavy malt lager carrying 5% alcohol, which will mean that it will probably be sold as a “malt liquor” in California, which forbids sale of beer with more than 4% alcohol by weight.

China’s Tsingtao beer already is widely sold in the United States, last year reporting U.S. sales of 225 million gallons.

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“We’re proud to enter this historic business agreement with Changlee,” said Don Sebastiani, chairman of the California winery that will distribute Changlee. “The positive political and business ramifications of this accord are endless.”

One possibility: importation of Sebastiani’s varietal wines into the huge and untapped Chinese market.


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