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April 9, 2013

Beervana in Thailand

Aaron Grieser ’07 Brews Success Overseas

Thailand is getting a taste of Oregon legal and brewing talent. Last June, Oregon Law graduate Aaron Grieser partnered with another beer enthusiast to cofound Beervana, a start-up headquartered in Bang Na, Thailand, that imports craft beer from small-scale breweries and sells them to upscale bars and restaurants. Patty & Aaron

Grieser made the decision to form the business with Bryan Bartrusch after the two met while enjoying a beer at a food festival in Thailand. After toiling through six months of paperwork, Grieser and Bartrusch opened up an office in June 2012 and shipped their first case of beer in September that same year. Since then, the company has garnered coverage from Wallpaper Magazine, Esquire Thailand, Bangkok 101, Asia City BK, Big Chili magazine and AsiaLIFE Magazine, Thailand.

Beervana currently serves 30 clients through Thailand and imports 21 different craft beers from Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, Calif., Rogue Ales, a local favorite for many Ducks in Eugene, Ore., and Brewerkz Microbrewery in Singapore. Most of this selection is brewed with barley in place of sugar and corn to preserve taste and freshness. The cofounders consider themselves beer curators, searching for brews that possess unique ingredients and rich flavors.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Grieser worked as an Associate Attorney in the Bangkok office of Hunton & Williams LLP with former coworker and fellow Oregon Law alumnus Chumbhot “Arm” Plangtrakul, an Associate Attorney at the firm who graduated with Grieser in 2007. Grieser had advised the Thai government on environmental policy prior to attending law school, so he was already familiar with the country.

Travelling to Thailand a second time after graduation was a thrilling moment for Grieser. He describes the transition from Eugene, Oregon, to Thailand “like stepping on the stage at the Apollo Theater in 1975.”

grieser2“It was electric,” Grieser said. “I was beside myself to be back in the city I knew and loved, with great people and the beaches just a few hours away—and this time not to be broke!”  

Grieser spent most of his formative years in Oregon involved in environmental politics through volunteering with the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide before receiving his undergraduate degree at Tufts University in Boston. Returning to Oregon to earn his law degree as a Duck seemed fitting, given his interest in public service.

“I'm an Oregon kid at heart,” Grieser said.  “[Oregon Law] was a natural fit given the law school's stellar program and activities for students interested in serious defense of the environment.”

At Oregon Law, Grieser was a Fulbright Fellow, a Wayne Morse Fellow, a Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellow, and a Halderman International Law Scholar. His research on global compliance programs appears in the Oregon Review of International Law, a student-run law journal at Oregon Law that addresses emerging legal issues in international law, trade and policy.

Oregon didn’t just cultivate Grieser’s interest in public service work and international law. As the craft beer capital of the world, the state also influenced his taste in beer. Grieser cut his teeth at places like Sam Bond’s Garage and Steelhead Brewery. The first beer he imported to Thailand was from the Oregon-based craft brewery, Rogue Ales, a Track Town favorite. He and his business partner even named their company after Portland’s moniker: “Beervana.” Beervana will be the first company to carry Bend, Ore-based Deschutes Brewery brand beer outside of North America. The wholesaler also will be introducing Singapore to local Eugene brewery Ninkasi at a beer festival this summer.

As for Grieser’s favorite brew, he doesn’t have a definitive answer. “That's like asking my favorite song,” he said. “It changes all the time!”

Grieser tells current students interested in becoming domestic or international entrepreneurs to soak up the lessons in their law school classes and to get legal experience before jumping into a start-up operation.

“Much like studying law, in a start-up everything is chaos and there's always too much to do,” Grieser said. “The structured, analytical thinking and time management that you learn in school is invaluable.” 

He also suggests students search for hands-on experience in contract negotiation wherever possible, noting that this type of negotiation “teaches contract drafting, the art of amicable compromise and the patience to work through the details that really matter.” In addition, he advises students to take courses in mediation to prepare to resolve conflicts in small company settings. Finally, he encourages students to indulge their passions and eccentricities. After all, if a zeal for craft beer can turn into a successful international start-up, then the possibilities for Law Ducks are endless.
 

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