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LONDON – It's Monday night in the affluent borough of Islington, and inside a seemingly old-world pub, a dozen locals are nursing new craft beers from oversized pint glasses.

Among the taps pouring at The Three Johns pub are a handful of British natives — Camden Town, Beavertown, Firebrand — but among them are two handles showing the Colorado state fish and a hand-drawn wood owl.

For Coloradans, the symbols of Odell Brewing Co. Cutthroat Porter and Double Pilsner are familiar. But for Londoners, the taste for these styles is relatively recent.

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England, like much of Europe, has been slower to jump on the craft beer trend pioneered in the U.S. Ten years ago, you'd have been lucky to find a craft beer there. Now some 20,000 barrels of American craft beer ship to the U.K. annually, along with around 260,000 more barrels of American pilsners, IPAs, porters and more sold internationally elsewhere. That number has increased 1,918 percent since 2003, The Brewers' Association is proud to point out.

Since 2004, the association has experimented with a certain American craft beer evangelism called the export development program. From Fort Collins alone, New Belgium Brewing, Odell Brewing and Fort Collins Brewery have jumped on board, and now among them, Fort Collins beers are sold internationally in the U.K., Sweden, Finland and Japan. Earlier this month, Longmont's Left Hand Brewing also started selling in the U.K., adding to an international portfolio that already includes Germany, Scandinavia and Asia.

For an idea of the size of these international operations, New Belgium sells just 5,000 cases abroad, less than a tenth of a percent of its annual beer, to Sweden.

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"We started exporting to Sweden in 2013 as a way to broaden our audience and help export the U.S. craft beer movement abroad," said Brian Krueger, who manages new markets and exporting for New Belgium.

According to the Brewers' Association, Sweden is the second highest recipient of U.S. craft beer exports, at 15 percent, after Canada, which buys 53 percent of American craft exports. Earlier this year, Brooklyn Brewery capitalized on popularity in the region by opening a sister brewery, Nya Carnegie, there with Carlsberg Sweden.

Fort Collins Brewery started exporting to Sweden and Finland in 2013.

"Obviously that region is growing for craft beer," said Paul Richter, sales analyst for Fort Collins Brewery. "We see (exporting) as an opportunity to grow along with it."

Chris Lennert, vice president of operations for Left Hand, said that even though his brewery ships its beer to multiple countries, including Sweden, "we're not doing it to make a lot of money. We're doing it to show the world that America has the best beer in the world, which wasn't the case 15 years ago."

When he visited England, for example, Lennert was surprised to find very few old English styles, such as stouts and porters, still in production.

Instead, these days, low-alcohol cask ales line the bars of most British pubs, a safe trend that, according to one British bartender, allows drinkers to stop on their way home from work, drink three or four pints, and drive on safely for dinner.

"We're gonna rock the boat a little bit, " Lennert said, referring to bringing Left Hand's flagship beers, such as Milk Stout Nitro (6 percent ABV) and Black Jack Porter (6.8 percent ABV), to London.

The Three Johns' general manager Jason Scarr said that London's own brewing scene, now with more than 50 craft or "independent" breweries, is "just exploding." He listed the craft breweries and pubs that had recently opened in the bar-dense surrounding neighborhood of Angel.

A few years ago, Scarr said, "people were stuck in their ways. … If they couldn't get a Guinness, they would turn around and walk out of the pub."

The Three Johns opened in May without a drop of Guinness, but instead with a global craft beer list that includes the American likes of Odell, along with Brooklyn Brewery, Green Flash, Rogue and Flying Dog.

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Across town at a new East End pub, Mother Kelly's, Left Hand made its London launch with a full arsenal of the company's American styles.

Locals go online to read about the new craft brands before going to these pubs' "tap takeovers," Scarr said.

"I'm trying to find stuff that the (pub) down the road won't stock," he added. "People's perceptions are changing."

And the change is welcome, according to Lennert of Left Hand.

Soon after the Brewers' Association started export development, Left Hand began shipping to the U.K. (The brewery's co-founder and president, Eric Wallace, also is the chairman of the export development committee.) But two years ago, Lennert said, Left Hand pulled its beer out of U.K. distribution because it seemed the culture wasn't ready to drink it.

Left Hand pays more for weekslong refrigerated shipping of its unpasteurized beer, first by truck across the U.S. and then by freight across the Atlantic.

But those short shelf-life American crafts, upon arriving to London, were surrounded by and sold alongside beers made specifically to last.

"We found our beer (past) date over there," yet still on the market, Lennert said.

By exiting the U.K. in 2012, he said: "We were protecting our investment. If somebody has never had our beer, and they try it, then if it's not good, they're done (with us)."

"Over there we're not only hurting ourselves, we're hurting the entire American craft beer movement."

Now as Left Hand re-enters the U.K., this time with a new distributor, Lennert hopes to see a more evolved culture around craft beer, specifically a willingness to drink it quickly. If it's any indication, back at The Three Johns, a week after Odell's tap takeover and with double pilsner and porter still on tap, the verdict is: surprisingly fresh.

"If you like that one…" Scarr gets excited.

He recommends a local craft beer to try: Firebrand's Big Hop Little Beer, with its medium bitterness.

"Or you could go with …" Camden Town, always a favorite, with a Hells lager, pale ale or Ink stout on tap to choose from. And then, a sudden late Monday night rush, as the enthusiast gets sidetracked talking more beer with more and more craft customers.

Beers' travels abroad

New Belgium

Which beers? Fat Tire, seasonal beers and Lips of Faith limited releases

Where sold? Commercially in Sweden and on U.S. military bases in Japan and the Pacific Rim

Fort Collins Brewery

Which beers? Flagship beers

Where sold? Sweden and Finland

Odell Brewing

Which beers? Flagships, some seasonals

Where sold? U.K.

Left Hand

Which beers? Flagships

Where sold? Sweden and around Scandinavia, U.K., Germany and Japan