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4 big beer news stories happened last week

Illustration for article titled 4 big beer news stories happened last week
Photo: Wavebreakmedia (iStock)

Last week was an especially zesty one in the beer world, even if those stories didn’t make front-page mainstream news. All of the week’s major beer stories were financial in nature, which could look snoozy to the average beer drinker. But behind the financial moves are intriguing story lines involving brewery buy-outs and pissed-off Germans. Let’s dive in!

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Spanish beer company takes majority stake in Avery Brewing

Avery, one of the beloved elder statesmen of the American craft beer world, sold a 40% stake to Spanish beer company Mahou San Miguel last week. Mahou already owned a 30% stake in Avery, so it now controls a majority interest in the Boulder, Colorado-based brewery. Mahou partnered with Founders—a Grand Rapids, Michigan brewery that Mahou owns a minority stake in as well—to deepen its investment in Avery.

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What does this mean? That as the beer market becomes increasingly competitive and legacy breweries struggle to keep up, I think we’ll see more breweries-buying-breweries deals, and not just with Anheuser-Busch InBev or MillerCoors involved. Exhibit B...

Ninkasi Brewing parent company announces plan to acquire other craft breweries

Eugene, Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing also announced a new majority owner last week: Legacy Breweries Inc. The newly founded Legacy Breweries aims to buy out other craft breweries to create a collective that will give its members advantages in terms of ingredients purchasing power as well as access to shared production equipment. Legacy Breweries CEO Don Bryant, a former hop company CEO, was candid in an interview with Brewbound about the company’s plans: Legacy hopes to purchase two more Ninkasi-sized breweries (Ninkasi is the 35th largest craft brewery in the U.S.) in the Midwest and East regions, then supplement them with 10-15 smaller breweries in those areas. It seems like those larger breweries could potentially become centers for the smaller breweries, perhaps brewing some of their beers and helping them scale up production.

It’s an ambitious plan, but not entirely unprecedented. In 2015, Oskar Blues and other breweries founded CANarchy, a collective that now includes Perrin Brewing Company, Cigar City Brewing, Squatters Craft Beers and Wasatch Brewery, Deep Ellum Brewing Company and Three Weavers Brewing Company. The breweries share resources, and have even released mixed packages of their beers. Whether through Legacy or other similar companies, I think we’ll see more of this type of partnership in the future.

Stone Brewing sells its Berlin facility

This news doesn’t impact U.S. drinkers unless they’re planning to travel to Berlin, but it’s worth reading this story for the drama alone. Escondido, California-based Stone Brewing, which is currently suing MillerCoors over the term “stone,” said last week it will sell its Berlin facility to Scottish beer company BrewDog. Stone reportedly spent about $30 million building the brewery and “destination restaurant” in 2014.

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But here’s the real intrigue: In a blog post he wrote “against professional counsel”—always a good start—Stone CEO Greg Koch says that, in essence, Germany just wasn’t ready for how awesome Stone is. “When we saw much of Germany stuck in a similar status quo of cheap beer, we were convinced we could help,” he writes, with an attitude many in the beer world have criticized as patronizing to a country that has brewed incredible beer for hundreds of years. “Amazing beer is being brewed by amazing brewers all over [Germany]. Unfortunately, according to the stats, most Germans are still ignoring these wonderful beers and buying the cheap stuff.”

I think there are likely many German beer drinkers this week telling Koch not to let the door hit him on the way out.

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Beer market share dips below 50%

Beer has for a long time been America’s alcohol of choice. But new numbers from the Beer Institute reported by Brewbound show that beer now makes up less than half of all alcohol volume consumed in the U.S., losing ground to wine and liquor. For comparison, in 2000, beer made up 58 percent of American alcohol consumption.

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This obviously isn’t welcome news for beer, though the silver lining is that craft beer had a decent year in 2018 and consumer spending on beer is still growing, albeit modestly. Beer’s decreasing volume will likely continue into 2019, the Beer Institute predicts, which will mean breweries have to make new moves to stay afloat. Expect to see more acquisitions and partnerships, like those above, in the coming year.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

statherian20
Statherian

Damn, it actually makes me sad to see Stone disappear from Berlin. I’m not a native (I’m Norwegian), but I visit the city once or twice each year, and since the Marienpark venue opened I’ve been there every time.

The first time I went (a couple of months after they opened) I also took the brewery tour, and I remember thinking that they indeed had a somewhat arrogant view of the German beer scene, which doesn’t sound like a good idea as far as marketing goes. Thing is they are also kinda right... I started traveling to Berlin regularly 8 years ago, and while the Norwegian craft beer scene was already thriving, it was almost non-existant in Berlin at the time. Before going, I was sure that the German beer-loving people would’ve embraced craft beer brewing, but it was almost impossible to find anything but the traditional German beers. Slowly that has changed, and now the city has some really nice craft beer pubs and shops, although it’s still nowhere as prevalent as in many other big (or small) European cities. Where I live in Oslo, I can find five different pubs with a great selection of craft beer on my block alone, while in Berlin there are large parts of the city where it’s almost impossible the find a single pub that has anything but weizens, pilsners and maybe a schwarzbier on tap or bottled.

When the Stone venue opened, I was curious and decided to make the trip, even though it’s pretty far from the city centre and not easy to get to. The venue is actually really nice, and they have always had a very nice selection of beers on tap, plus they serve very good food as well. I quite like Stone beers in general, and don’t get as many of them here in Norway (probably less now that they’re closing their European brewery), so getting to taste some rare ones on tap was always good.

I do enjoy many of Brewdog’s beers as well, but unless they have a very different concept for the place, I’m not sure how they can make it work better than Stone.

I’m still kinda surprised how little Germans have embraced craft beer though - although large parts of Europe were traditionally all bout the light lagers, that has changed most places in the last 10+ years. Not as much in Germany it seems...