Located in San Antonio, Franken Brau is the best source of craft beer and the only neighborhood craft beer hub on Saipan.
The business got started 18 months ago after a friend’s brief visit to Saipan.
“I was based on Colorado and a friend of mine came here (Saipan) for a business trip. He came back to Colorado and shared tales of the need for good beer on island. We did our research, looked at the beer offerings here in the CNMI and we decided to give it a try,” said Franken Brau president and co-founder Dr. Bruno Doetsch.
“With a population of 55,000, the CNMI is not a big market but the potential is definitely here as we get 650,000 tourists per year. So we don’t have a big market but we have a market and therefore a niche,” he added.
Franken Brau takes the beer business seriously. They aspire to bring craft beer from the mainland fresh for consumption on island—from brew to Brau.
“It is a process and we do it. We ship our beer in a refill container to maintain quality. We ship beers from the breweries via refrigerated truck to the port in Long Island then loaded to a refill container. It is then shipped here and once here, we store it in a cold room at a temperature of 38,” Doetsch said.
Franken Brau opened its doors to introduce another perspective on beer consumption.
“Drinking craft beer is more like a lifestyle. It is not just drinking beer, it is about enjoying beer and this is how the craft beer movement has been revived. We want that lifestyle here on Saipan and as we go along, we see the movement starting because people enjoy our beer,” Doetsch said.
“The local community is starting to experience craft beer. They start with something light and slowly transition to other flavors. Now, people are coming in asking for recommendations. They want to drink quality and I think it’s better to have five bottles of good beer instead of a case of a bad one,” Doetsch added.
Environmental consultant and musician Jason Wakeham, a craft beer customer, said the craft beer lifestyle is where one decides that quality is more important than quantity.
“If you are a volume person, a pack of regular beer is a good deal for $10 to $12 but nobody tells you what they put in that beer. But if you care about quality and natural ingredients and get it from trusted craft brews from the mainland, you are in a better position,” he said.
“I want to drink beer that tastes good, fresh, delicious and cold, which is important and Bruno is on top of that because he makes sure that his beers stays cold all the way from the brewery to Saipan. He cares about beer and is not here to make a quick buck off of people,” he added.
Amber Weston, from Portland, Oregon who grew up drinking craft beer, is glad that the island is opening up to new tastes and flavor.
“Craft beer consumption is both a culture and a mentality. If beer is shipped and stored properly than you get your money’s worth,” she said.
Doetsch said the market’s taste for beer is evolving and paving the way for local breweries to open business on island.
“It makes me happy that we have Saipan Brewery who is brewing locally, changing the future of beer in the CNMI. But our mission is a different one as we get beer made in USA, we do less canning, and we do wholesale business,” he said.
“People have been coming back—locals and tourists. It’s tough to convince someone to switch from a case of canned beer to try craft beers we bring on island. Expats, they come anyway but the recognition we get from the local people is something else,” he added.