Craft beer production up 16%

The craft brewing industry has continued a strong pace of growth in the first half of 2015, according to new mid-year data released by the Brewers Association. American craft beer (as defined by the BA) production volume increased 16% during the first half of the year.

From January through the end of June 2015, approximately 12.2 million barrels of beer were sold by craft brewers, up from 10.6 million barrels during the first half of 2014.

“Industry growth is occurring in all regions and stemming from a mix of sources including various retail settings and a variety of unique brewery business models,” BA economist Bart Watson said in a press release. “The continued growth of small and independent brewers illustrates that additional market opportunities and demand are prevalent.”

As of June 30, 2015, 3,739 breweries were operating in the U.S, an increase of 699 breweries over the same time period of the previous year. Additionally, there were 1,755 breweries in planning. Craft brewers currently employ an estimated 115,469 full-time and part-time workers.

“More and more Americans are discovering the joys of enjoying fresh beer produced by their neighborhood brewery. By supporting local, small and independent craft breweries, beer lovers are gradually returning the United States to the system of localized beer production that existed for much of our nation’s history,” Watson said.


New Belgium to operate small Denver brewery

Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing has announced it will operate a 10-barrel brewery The Source Hotel in Denver’s River North District. New Belgium will brew on the ground floor of the Source Hotel, with barrel aging on the eight floor in a rooftop lounge, called “The Woods”, a collaboration between New Belgium and The Source Hotel. “The Woods” will serve New Belgium beers paired with small plates and will include a snack counter and bar, sit-down dining and beer garden.

“After 25 years in Ft. Collins, we’re really excited to get more deeply involved in Colorado’s cultural and political capital,” Jenn Vervier, director of strategy and sustainability at New Belgium, said for a press release. “We’ve long considered creating a Denver location to bring the New Belgium experience to more of our Colorado fans and to the millions of travelers who visit Denver. RiNo is already a vivid scene with a rich art and craft beer culture, and will soon have great access for bikers and walkers.”


Odell Brewing chooses employee ownership

Doug, Wynne and Corkie Odell are selling Odell Brewing Company, the Colorado brewery they started in 1989, to their employees.

They announced Monday that they have sold 19 percent to a newly-formed employee stock option plan (ESOP), in which all 115 workers participate. A majority of the company’s stock has been sold to the Odells’ executive team, including Eric Smith, director of sales and marketing; Brendan McGivney, chief operating officer; and Chris Banks, chief financial officer. The Odells will retain 10 percent each as a family legacy.

Wynne Odell will continue as chief executive officer, Corkie Odell will remain head of human resources and Doug Odell will continue as founder, a title he’s held for about five years.

Odell is one of a growing number of breweries, including neighbors New Belgium Brewing and Left Hand Brewing, that have started ESOPs.

“The craft beer industry is changing dramatically and we have seen several of our friends and neighbors selling their companies, in whole or part, to major brewers and private equity firms,” Doug Odell for a press release announcing the plan. “While these options are more lucrative than the one we chose, we believe that the people who built OBC are the best ones to lead us successfully into the future.”


Duvel, Firestone Walker combine US companies

Belgian-based Duvel Moortgat and California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Company and have announced they will combine their two companies in the United States.

FW founder David Walker and Adam Firestone and Michel Moortgat, CEO of Duvel Moortgat, signed an agreement earlier this week, and the transaction is expected to close later this year. Because it is an agreement between two private companies no financial or contractual details will be disclosed.

The companies announced the deal simultaneously with press releases and by using social media.

Walker and Firestone stated: “The Firestone Walker and Duvel Moortgat families have combined forces to broaden their capacity and scope as brewers. Long admirers of each other’s beers, culture and breweries, the two teams saw the perfect fit for an alliance. The partnership will allow Firestone Walker to develop our capacity across the US in a conservative and thoughtful way by consummating a life long tie with this family-owned international craft brewer, who continue their commitment to participating in the American Craft Revolution.”

And Moortat said: “The relationship I have built with David and Adam made Firestone Walker the perfect fit for future growth. We share the same values; have a great mutual respect for each other’s achievements and a deeply-held belief in exceptional quality as a platform for long-term success. Bringing Firestone Walker together with Boulevard, Ommegang, Duvel and the other craft breweries in our family creates a stronger platform in the USA for us both and allows us to collaborate on brewing in different locations across the USA.”

Te Duvel Moortgat group was founded in Belgium in 1871. The company was an original investor in Brewery Ommegang in New York and eventually purchased full control of the brewery. Two years ago it acquired Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City. The company also imports its European brands, including Duvel, Chouffe, Maredsous, De Koninck and Liefmans.

Although the press release from Duvel Moorgat stated at the beginning that “(Firestone Walker) will continue to operate independently in Paso Robles under its current leadership of David Walker and Adam Firestone” much is left to be learned about the actual deal.


Left Hand Brewing establishes ESOP

Left Hand Brewing announced today it has established an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Under the Colorado brewery’s employee ownership plan, the brewery will contribute stock to the ESOP trust with each eligible employee receiving an annual allocation. “Our intent is to reward employees and foster an ownership mentality, encouraging team members to contribute to and participate in Left Hand’s long-term success,” Eric Wallace, co-founder and CEO, said in a company press release.

Several other breweries that started about the same time as Left Hand — which first brewed beer in 1993 — have established ESOPs, at least in part to assure the future independence of their companies.

Per the brewery’s vision statement and core values, the ESOP will help to cultivate long-term service, promote responsibility and trust in all relationships and create a sense of pride in the workplace. “It’s not about maximizing immediate financial return. We have a longer view. Money is only a tool to serve our greater mission,” Wallace said. “Left Hand is about brewing great beer, giving back to our community, and perpetuating a participative employee culture. With the implementation of the ESOP, it is our resolve to keep our vision alive and prosperous.”