Peter Chiodo calls it the “second renaissance.” About a generation after small breweries with flavourful beers stormed the oligopoly that controlled the beer sector, craft beers, many of them made in micro-breweries and distributed locally, have become frothy and surprisingly upscale competitors in an industry that traditionally functioned at the meat-and-potatoes end of the alcohol spectrum.

Indeed, there are now about 25,000 micro-breweries operating world wide, many of them offering complex, gourmet beers that have little in common with mass market, heavily branded lagers. Liquor agencies in B.C. and Ontario have reported a significant increase in craft beer sales in recent years, with market share in Ontario estimated to be about 5%, despite generally flat beer sales growth in recent years.

Chiodo owns one such operation—a small but rapidly growing micro-brewery in Barrie, Ont. he founded a decade ago. He unapologetically goes for maximum hop, and also offers specialty brews, with chocolate notes. But besides the recipes, Chiodo’s firm has a flavour that arguably sets it apart from the rest: its name—Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery—as well as unique packaging (individual bottles are sold in separate decorative boxes) and a zany brand that has more in common with Monty Python graphics than the imagery of upscale brewing.

After seven years spent building a case-by-case presence in the Canadian market, Flying Monkeys made a concerted push to establish itself internationally in 2012, first in Europe and then in the crowded U.S. market.

Read: How to Sell ‘Brand Canada’ Overseas

The effort, says Chiodo, appears to have yielded results in both regions. The 37-employee company, which now brews about 1.2 million litres per year (equivalent to four million bottles), is planning to expand its manufacturing capacity by 40% next year in order to meet growing demand both domestically and internationally. Exports now account for 16% of revenues. The most important element in establishing a consumer brand abroad, he says, is “understanding that when you hit those international markets, the product has to sell itself. You can’t be there to baby it.”

The company traces its roots to Chiodo’s university passion for DIY brewing. In the early 1990s, he and his wife were studying at the University of Alabama, and brewing beer in their spare time. He’d do specialty ingredient runs to Memphis, Tennessee. After completing his MBA, Chiodo ended up working as an operations executive for a Fortune 500 company, but he never abandoned the dream of setting up his own brewery. “My father always said, going to work should be like going on vacation, and then you’ll never work a day in your life.”

In the early 2000s, he scrounged together the funds—about $3 to $5 million—and built a micro-brewery on a waterfront site in Barrie. He drew inspiration from what he’d learned about craft beer in the U.S., and then took a flyer with his graphics and packaging. As the firm built its following in specialty pubs and craft beer festivals, Chiodo reckoned he was ready to export. “We knew we had a brand that we could take abroad.”

As it turns out, abroad came knocking on his door, first in the form of a Swedish distributor, which began with small orders, and then, in early 2013, a large Spanish firm, Groupas Varagoza, which wanted to represent Flying Monkeys across Europe. The Swedish company, says Chiodo, had heard about Flying Monkeys because its beers scored well on RateBeer.com, a popular connoisseurs’ site. But with both, the European distributors were looking for a specifically Canadian brand.

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