It seems that almost every month we’re reading of a new craft brewery bought by a third party. In January, Anheuser-Busch InBev agreed to buy Seattle-based Elysian Brewing Co. Angry drinkers protested on the brewery’s Facebook page.
Tristan asked the staff, what craft brewery would you be most disappointed to see sold to a third party and why? Also would it matter if it were sold to another craft centric brand, one of the big three, or a private equity group?
I would be completely heartbroken if Dogfish Head sold. Sam Calgione is the epitome of craft beer and has said multiple times that he wants to keep the brewery in the family. Goose Island’s sale shows us that a sale doesn’t need to change the quality (thank goodness for Bourbon County), but I would still hate it for Dogfish. It would only hurt a little less if it was a craft-centric brand.
I actually had this conversation with a couple friends this weekend. I am not heartbroken over mergers and acquisitions as a whole. Generally speaking, this is a reasonable option for any small company of any business type. It gives smaller businesses access to cadres of experienced analysts and professionals, increased cash flow and wider visibility in more markets. Many companies have done this and then bought themselves out of the merger once enough equity and market share is attained. It is a pseudo-catapult system into expansion with all the liability and cost falling on the parent company. That said, it comes with risks and this depends a lot on who you get into bed with.
I do not think that this kind of long term strategy will play out as well for those who merge or allow acquisitions by big beer companies like ABInBev or SABMiller. There is a conflict of interest there. I much prefer craft beer, and foreign beer companies too, merging with like minded brewing companies or third party equity firms. Firms are a completely different discussion though.
That said, you people better leave my Holy City Brewing Co. alone!
Wow tough question!! Even though I’ve lived in Colorado for 7 years, I’d be really sad to see the magnificent brewery that is Tired Hands, right outside of Philly where I grew up, sell out. Despite being a fairly small operation, they are always tapping the most unique beers that embrace local ingredients, and have such an amazing down-to-earth, Hobbit-esque atmosphere at their brewpubs. In a state like Pennsylvania that bows to mass-produced Yuenling, Tired Hands is the antithesis of “big” brewing, making small-batch artisan beers that (almost) make me want to move back to the East Coast.
Great question! Probably DC Brau. There is just something so scrappy about it, though it is expanding like huge. We don’t have much in terms of DC representation, but what we have is our own, you know? But I think I could be ok with another craft-centric brand or private equity — a big three would be tough. But this is all emotional and not actually looking at facts, figures and people.
New Belgium is one brewery that it’s pretty safe to say will not sell to corporate or a private equity firm, but you never know these days. I truly believe they’re the model of how a brewery should properly scale and treat their employees. I think the recent Saint Archer move is something we should be wary of, while they’re still a big story, they represent that middle sized brewery who I didn’t think would begin to get gobbled up until a few years down the road. We are now truly in a land grab.
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