Smithsonian to document craft beer history

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History announced today at the Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia that it will launch a three-year initiative to “collect, document and preserve the history of brewing, craft brewers and the beer industry to explore how the beverage and brewing connect to larger themes in American history.”

A press release stated that the initiative is made possible through a donation from the Brewers Association. It added:

Museum staff have researched and documented American food and beverage history for more than two decades and will work with the Brewers Association, American brewers and beer historians to document and collect the stories and history of modern American brewing. Beer and brewing have been an important part of the American experience since before the nation’s founding and into the present day, and beer production for the past 30 years has been connected to significant social, cultural, economic and environmental movements across the country. The team will explore the unique connections between brewing and broader themes, including advertising, agriculture, industry, innovation, business and community life.

“Brewing has a long and deep connection to our country’s history, and the museum’s collections explore the history of beer from the late 19th to early 20th centuries,” said John Gray, the director of the museum. “The support of the Brewers Association allows our staff to collect the more recent history, including the impact of small and independent craft brewers who continue to advance the U.S. beer culture and inspire brewers worldwide.

The museum currently houses several small collections related to brewing and beer consumption in America. The bulk dates from the 1870–1960s.

“The craft brewing revolution in America has had a profound social, cultural and economic impact on this country,” Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Brewers Association, said for the press release. “America is a beer destination. We are honored to support this effort and work with the National Museum of American History to chronicle and showcase the significant achievements small and independent brewers have made throughout this nation’s history.”


AB Inbev acquires Birra del Borgo

Birra del Borgo has announced a deal that makes it a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev. The Italian brewery characterized this as a partnership in the press release announcing the sale. AB InBev will provide the support to allow Birra del Borgo to expand its brewery know how and infrastructure, continue to innovate and bring new great beers on the market through its distribution system. Founder Leonardo Di Vincenzo will continue to lead Birra Del Borgo as CEO of the company.

Di Vincenzo started his brewery in 2005 in Borgorose, a small town in the province of Rieti on the border between Lazio and Abruzzo in Italy. Di Vincrnzo’s initial inspiration comes from English and Belgian beers, but he then reworked them to become a part of the Italian gastronomy culture. He is one of “Birreria Brother Brewers” — along with Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione and Teo Musso of Birra Baladin Italy — behind the brewpub within each Eataly location.

For the press release, Di Vincenzo said: “Our voyage since we started in 2005 has been a great adventure. Today the beer sector has become very competitive and it necessary for us to make a next step to ensure that we can continue to evolve in terms of brewing techniques and in terms of the complexity and taste variation we can offer to consumers. We believe partnering with AB InBev is a great opportunity to do exactly that: it will allow Birra del Borgo to grow in a sustainable way while staying true to our unique identity and the philosophy that we have followed since the very beginning.”

Simon Wuestenberg, country director for AB InBev Italia, said: “We have been very impressed by what Leonardo and his team have built since 2005. They have been at the forefront of redefining beer in Italy, bringing a unique mix of inspired innovation, quality and consistency. Leonardo’s vision for beer and his passion for brewing will be great inspirations to our whole team, and we’re very excited about partnering up and growing together.”

The press release did not mention A-B’s High End division — which includes Goose Island Beer Co., Blue Point Brewing, 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing, Golden Road Brewing, Virtue Cider, Four Peaks Brewing and Breckenridge Brewery — so at first glance it appears Birra del Borgo will operate separately.


A-B acquires Devils Backbone Brewing

Anheuser-Busch announed it has struck a deal to acquire Virginia’s Devils Backbone Brewing Co. The sale is set to close in the second quarter, A-B said. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Devils Backbone’s flagship beer is Vienna Lager, which accounted for about 60% of its sales last year. Devils Backbone joins what A-B calls The High End division. The High End includes including Goose Island Beer Co., Blue Point Brewing, 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing, Golden Road Brewing, Virtue Cider, Four Peaks Brewing and Breckenridge Brewery.

“While we are joining a creative group of craft breweries in the division, Devils Backbone will retain a high level of autonomy and continue its own authentic DNA within The High End framework,” Devils Backbone founder and CEO Steve Crandall said in a statement. He also said the existing management team plans to remain with the brewer.

Devils Backbone operates the Outpost Brewery & Taproom in Lexington, where its primary production brewery is located. The brewer also operates its Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows in Roseland. Those two breweries have won 19 medals at the Great American Beer Festival since 2012.


BA releases annual ‘Top 50’ list

The Brewers Association has released its annual lists of the top 50 craft and overall brewing companies in the U.S., based on beer sales volume. Of the top 50 overall brewing companies, 43 were craft brewing companies (according to the BA definition).


“The top U.S. brewers continue to drive demand, growth, innovation and exponential interest in beers from small and independent brewers,” said Ba chief economist Bart Watson. “With a historic record number of breweries in U.S., the top brewers continue to open new markets and expose beer drinkers to a variety of fuller-flavored styles and offerings.”

For more information, including the overall list, visit the Brewers Association website.


Deschutes headed to Roanoke, Virginia

Deschutes Brewery announced that after a long search it has chosen Roanoke, Virginia, as the location for its East Coast brewery. The new facility will begin shipping beer in about five years.

The company is calling the future brewery “Brew 4.” The original brewpub in downtown Bend, Oregon, is Brew 1, the production facility in Bend Brew 2, and a brewpub in Portland Brew 3. Construction on Brew 4 will begin in 2019, and its initial capacity will be about 150,000 barrels.

“We started Deschutes Brewery when craft beer wasn’t burgeoning and led with a beer style that wasn’t popular at the time – Black Butte Porter,” said fouder and CEO Gary Fish. “This pioneering approach was a key driver behind our decision to go with Roanoke, as that same spirit exists in this community and its fast-growing beer culture.”

Deschutes opened in 1988. The brewery produced 345,000 barrels in 2015.


Craft beer retail sales pass $23 billion

Craft brewery production volume grew 13% in 2015 and sales volume 16%, leaving craft beer with a 12% share of the overall beer industry.


Craft brewers — as defined by the Brewers Association — produced 24.5 million barrels in 2015 and sales of $22.3 billion of represent 21% all retail sales.

“For the past decade, craft brewers have charged into the market, seeing double digit growth for eight of those years,” BA chief economist Bart Watson said for a press release. “There are still a lot of opportunities and areas for additional growth. An important focus will remain on quality as small and independent brewers continue to lead the local, full-flavored beer movement.”

The numbers are preliminary and the Brewers Association will release the list of Top 50 craft brewing companies and overall brewing companies by volume sales on April 5.

For information about the methodology in the collecting the numbers and about the BA definition of craft brewer, visit the association website.


Victory, Southern Tier form alliance

Mid-Atlantic breweries Victory Brewing Company and Southern Tier Brewing Company announced an alliance under a under parent company Artisanal Brewing Ventures (ABV). A press release stated, “This new strategic framework between ABV, Victory and Southern Tier provides capital, security and vision for the future. ABV, formed to unify independent craft brewers and distillers, embraces the collaborative craft spirit while administering crucial growth resources. As a key partner in this formation, Arlington Capital Advisors acted as exclusive financial consultant to Victory. The transaction is expected to close within the next 60 days.”

Victory and Southern Tier will independently operate their breweries, which have a joint capacity of over 800,000 barrels. This alliance creates one of the largest brewers in the Northeast and ranks within the top 15 craft brewing companies in the United States with combined

“The craft beer community is at its most critical moment since its inception as larger brewing corporations have bought into our grassroots movement, irrevocably changing the marketplace. Like-minded brewers such as Victory and Southern Tier can preserve our character, culture and products by banding together,” Victory co-founder Bill Covaleski said for a press release. “Allied we can continue to innovate and best serve the audience who fueled our growth through their loyal thirst.”

The Victory and Southern Tier leadership teams and employees will remain intact. Covaleski and Victory co-founder Ron Barchet will join the Artisanal Brewing Ventures’ Board of Directors. CEO John Coleman and CFO Bill Wild will lead ABV’s management team.

“This is exactly the kind of alliance we imagined when we created Artisanal Brewing Ventures in 2014,” said Phin DeMink, founder of Southern Tier Brewing Company. “This is a concept that was specifically designed by and for craft brewers, so we can focus on the things we’re best at while creating meaningful scale advantages. I’m proud to see this model validated and am grateful that my friends Ron and Bill have become our partners.”

“I look forward to guiding these two truly great organizations forward as they collaborate, innovate and share best practices.” Coleman said. “I believe this is a watershed transaction for the craft brewing world.”