New Belgium, Magnolia, Cantwell, lambic

Write your own headline. The press release New Belgium Brewing issued this afternoon turned the process of picking a lead item into a multiple choice question.

The Colorado brewery will purchase Magnolia Brewing in San Francisco, the 20-year-old brewery that was in bankruptcy. A newly formed partnership, in which New Belgium is the majority shareholder, that includes Elysian Brewing co-founder Dick Cantwell and Belgian lambic producer Oud Beersel, will operate Magnolia. Cantwell will head up brewing operations, working along with Magnolia founder Dave McLean, who will be an employee of the partnership. Cantwell left Elysian in 2015, after the A-B InBev bought the company.

“I’m tremendously excited to be back in the beer business and looking forward to working with the team at Magnolia to develop new beers and new ideas,” Cantwell said in the press release. “This project is the natural evolution of a longstanding strategy of collaboration between myself, New Belgium and Oud Beersel.”

The release explains that Belgian lambic producer Oud Beersel joins the partnership as a contributing experimenter, with the goal of eventually shipping containers of its traditionally-produced and spontaneously fermented beers for blending with Magnolia-crafted beers. Installation of a coolship is planned, along with the wooden aging vessels for which both New Belgium and Oud Beersel are known. To be called lambic a beer must be produced in Belgium, and by shipping lambic to San Francisco, the partnership plans to establish the world’s first dedicated lambic blendery outside of Belgium.

New Belgium already did something similar with Transatlantique Kriek, a beer produced with Oud Beersel and Brouerij Boon, wherein beer was shipped from Belgium for blending with New Belgium wood-aged beers. New Belgium is also likely to ship beer to San Francisco for blending from its Fort Collins, Colorado brewery.

“We’ve been looking for ways to diversify our assets and expand our community,” said New Belgium co-founder and Executive Chair, Kim Jordan. “These two tap rooms are right in the heart of historic San Francisco neighborhoods, a place Dick (Cantwell) and I call home. Magnolia makes excellent beer and plays an important role in the community. We’re excited about the possibilities and look forward to continuing our journey while honoring Magnolia’s history and presence.”

McLean opened Magnolia Brewing in 1997 in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Smokestack, a barbecue restaurant attached to a 30-barrel production brewery, followed in 2014. When its revenue did not meet expectations the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2015.

“Magnolia has had quite a journey in San Francisco for nearly two decades, including some very challenging and difficult times in recent years,” Mclean said. “I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity to see Magnolia start a new chapter and to be working with New Belgium, Dick Cantwell and Oud Beersel to preserve what we all love about Magnolia while embarking on some exciting new craft beer adventures together.”