BA creates seal of independence

June 27th, 2017 | Posted by Real Beer

Brewers Association seal of independenceThe Brewers Association has made a new seal designed to help consumers identify independent breweries. The seal is available for use free of charge by any of the more than 5,300 small and independent American craft brewers that have a valid TTB Brewer’s Notice, meet the BA’s craft brewer definition, and sign a license agreement. It is available to both member and non-member breweries of the BA.

It features a beer bottle shape flipped upside down, signifying that craft brewers have upended beer.

“Independent craft brewers continue to turn the beer industry on its head by putting community over corporation and beer before the bottom line. They continue to better beer and our country by going beyond just making the beverage. These small businesses give back to their backyard communities and support thousands of cities and towns across the U.S.,” said Bob Pease, president & CEO, Brewers Association, in an association press release. “As Big Beer acquires former craft brands, beer drinkers have become increasingly confused about which brewers remain independent. Beer lovers are interested in transparency when it comes to brewery ownership. This seal is a simple way to provide that clarity—now they can know what’s been brewed small and certified independent.”

All 19 of the Brewers Association board members approved the initiative, Pease said, adding that each of the 16 brewery representatives committed to printing the seal on packaging. Boston Beer Company, the second-largest U.S. craft brewery, and Maine’s Allagash Brewing Company are among the initial breweries that have agreed to place the seal on their packaging.

“Craft brewers build communities and the spirit of independent ownership matters,” said Allagash founder Rob Tod, who is chair of the BA board. “When beer lovers buy independent craft beer, they are supporting American entrepreneurs and the risk takers who have long strived not just to be innovative and make truly great beer, but to also build culture and community in the process.”

Private equity firms buys majority stake in The Bruery

May 19th, 2017 | Posted by Real Beer

Massachussets-area private equity firm Castanea Partners has bought a majority share of The Bruery, a Southern California brewery known for its esoteric beers. In announcing the deal on its website the brewery stated it will “enable us to continue to grow in ways consistent with our ideals.”

“We chose to make Castanea a part of Famille Rue because of their talents and their appreciation and understanding of our vision, and because they want to contribute to our continuous improvement,” CEO Patrick Rue wrote. He and his father, Mike, started the The Bruery in 2008. The Rues expect to sell about 13,000 barrels in 2017, much of it directly to customers.

The brewery answered the question about why it would make the deal with a private equity firm this way: “The Bruery started out as a very small operation, and nine years later we’ve transformed into a proud leader in specialty craft beer. We’ve had plans for growth, some of which you have seen realized over the past couple of years, with the implementation of our more efficient brewhouse, our new packaging hall for our clean beer, and the extension of our sour and wild program into our Bruery Terreux brand and facility.”

The companies Castanea has invested in include Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Urban Decay cosmetics, Essentia Water, and drybar.

New Belgium brewmaster has new venture

May 18th, 2017 | Posted by Real Beer

Longtime New Belgium Brewing brewmaster Peter Bouckaert had announced he will leave the Fort Collins brewery to form a new one, also in Fort Collins. He will team up with Zach and Laura Wilson, formerly of 1933 Brewing, to form Purpose Brewing and Cellars. Bouckaert will begin working with his new partners immediately, but no formal timeline has been established for when he will leave New Belgium. It likely won’t be before the end of the year.

“We believe that everything in life has a purpose. Our mission at Purpose Brewing and Cellars is to inspire creativity, promote craftsmanship, and support our local community,” Bouckaert and the Wilsons said in a press release.

Bouckaert, a native of Belgium who previously worked at Rodenbach Brewery, began at New Belgium in 1996. “I got to work for 21 years in the best company in the US, since Google does not create beer,” he said. “I got to work with people that realize daily their love and passion. I said from the get go that I wanted to stay as long as I can learn. Now I want to learn new things. It will be hard to leave all this passion but change is good for learning.”

Marston’s acquires Charles Wells business

May 18th, 2017 | Posted by Real Beer

English brewer Marston’s has agreed to a £55 million deal to buy the brewing arm of Charles Wells Group, which will enhance the pub chain’s presence in London. As part of the acquisition, the brewer will supply all beer, wine and spirits to the Charles Wells pubs estate.

Charles Wells has a portfolio of more than 30 brands, including Bombardier, Young’s and McEwan’s. The business also has UK distribution rights for the Estrella Damm lager brand and other beers under license including Kirin and Erdinger. In a press release, Marston’s stated the deal would, “increase our ale market share from 11% to 16%, this acquisition will also strengthen our representation in London and the South East, and present an opportunity through the McEwan’s brand to expand into Scotland.”

Martson’s CEO, Ralph Findlay, said: “The acquisition of Charles Wells Brewing and Beer Business builds on Marston’s established brewing prowess and is a further step in our objective to develop the leading premium beer business in the UK market. We have demonstrated our ability to acquire, integrate and develop beer brands evidenced by the success of brands such as Hobgoblin, Wainwright, and Lancaster Bomber.”

Speakeasy Ales sold, remains in San Francisco

May 8th, 2017 | Posted by Real Beer

Hunters Point Brewery has purchased San Francisco’s Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, both the company’s brewing equipment and the brands. Hunter Point is a new company founded by Ces Butner, former owner of Horizon Beverage Company in Oakland.

“I worked with Speakeasy Ales & Lagers for five to six years as a distributor,” said Butner. “We were one the first companies to expand their distribution beyond San Francisco. There was a tremendous amount of growth and interest in the Speakeasy brands. It was one of the best craft breweries we worked with and the beer quality is very high. I thought it would be a shame if the brand, and one of the few production breweries left in San Francisco, disappeared because of financial problems. Keeping Speakeasy’s San Francisco born and brewed tradition alive is very important to me.”

The brewery began in San Francisco in 1997, opened a taproom in 2011, and underwent a major upgrade in 2015 with the addition of a new 60-barrel brewhouse, malt handling system, fermentors, canning line, and more. The $7.5 million expansion lifted capacity from 15,000 barrels to 90,000 barrels, and the brewery reported sales of 32,500 in 2015.

It briefly ceased brewing in March because it failed to repay its primary creditor, Union Bank, and was forced to enter into an assignment for the benefit of creditors, an agreement that some companies pursue as an alternative to bankruptcy. Three days later, a Los Angeles court appointed a receiver to oversee the sale of the company. It then resumed operations with a skeleton crew of six employees.

Sam Cappione has been appointed vice president and general manager to oversee all aspects of company operations. The eight employees who remained at Speakeasy Ales & Lagers during the sale of company assets will continue working at the brewery. Additional staff will be hired in the next few weeks and months to fill key positions in operations, sales, packaging, the tap room, and brewing departments. The tap room will be opened as soon as possible.

There will be no changes to the Speakeasy beer lineup at this time.

A-B’s High End division acquires Wicked Weed Brewing

May 3rd, 2017 | Posted by Real Beer

Anheuser-Busch’s The High End division is not done shopping.

The brewing giant’s business unit focused on its specialty brands announced this morning that it has acquired Wicked Weed Brewing. Founded in Asheville, N.C., in 2012 by Walt and Luke Dickinson and lifelong friends Ryan, Rick and Denise Guthy, Wicked Weed is one of the breweries that has made Asheville one of America’s best known brewing destinations.

“This is an exciting time for the entire brewing team,” said co-founder Walt Dickinson. “Our ability to create a wide range of really well executed beers that are focused on creativity, quality and drinkability is what makes Wicked Weed great. We have chosen to partner with The High End to position ourselves to make Wicked Weed what we imagined it could be when we first sat at a craft beer bar and talked about opening a brewery. As a brewer, giving our team more resources to continue innovating our portfolio and the ability to reach more craft drinkers, allows us to keep putting the beer and the people first.”

Wicked Weed Brewing owns and operates four facilities in Asheville: their original Downtown brewpub where they produce over 150 different beers a year, the “Funkatorium,” the first dedicated sour beer taproom and barrel house on the East Coast, a 50-barrel production brewery in West Asheville, and the “Funk House and company headquarters,” a custom-designed brewhouse and training facility.

“We are excited to welcome Walt, Luke, Ryan, Rick, Denise, and the entire Wicked Weed team into our High End family,” said Felipe Szpigel, president, The High End. “It’s clear to me Wicked Weed is redefining what sophistication in beer can mean, with their amazing offerings being relevant in a wide variety of occasions. Their ability to brew the highest quality beers, in a variety of styles, along with their exciting barrel program, leads me to be optimistic about what our futures hold together.”

Since A-B InBev acquired Chicago’s Goose Island Beer in 2011 it has continued to purchase other regionl breweries, eventually creating The High End as a separate division. It includes brands such as Stella Artois and Shock Top as well as Goose Island, Blue Point, 10 Barrel, Elysian, Golden Road, Virtue Cider, Four Peaks, Breckenridge Brewery, Devils Backbone, and Karbach Brewing Co.

Craft brewery production up 6%

March 28th, 2017 | Posted by Real Beer

The Brewers Association announced that craft breweries* produced 24.6 million barrels of beer in 2016, 6% more than in 2015. It was the smallest increase since 2008. Retail dollar sales grew 10% to $23.5 billion. Microbreweries and brewpubs delivered 90% of the growth.

“Small and independent brewers are operating in a new brewing reality still filled with opportunity, but within a much more competitive landscape,” BA economist Bart Watson said in a press release. “As the overall beer market remains static and the large global brewers lose volume, their strategy has been to focus on acquiring craft brewers. This has been a catalyst for slower growth for small and independent brewers and endangered consumer access to certain brands.”

Craft Brewery Growth 2017

Additionally, in 2016 the number of operating breweries in the U.S. grew 16.6%, totaling 5,301 breweries, broken down as follows: 3,132 microbreweries, 1,916 brewpubs, 186 regional craft breweries and 67 large or otherwise non-craft brewers. Small and independent breweries account for 99%t of the breweries in operation. Throughout the year, there were 826 new brewery openings and 97 closings. Combined with already existing and established breweries and brewpubs, craft brewers provided nearly 129,000 jobs, an increase of almost 7,000 from the previous year.

During on online press conference, Watson reminded reporters that 75% of the breweries in the country make less than 1,000 barrels annually. As the number of small breweries increases, he said, so does diversity of both business models and beers produced.

* The Brewers Association defines craft breweries as small, independent, and traditional. Some breweries once defined a craft no longer are, and the math behind the numbers can be complicated. Watson provides back ground in a post at the association website: Breaking down the craft beer numbers.