New Belgium Brewing Company

Who’s Getting Hurt by Flat Sales?

Data compiled by the Brewers Association show that the bigger craft breweries bore the brunt of last year’s slump.

Twenty-five of the top 50 craft breweries, as defined by the BA, didn’t grow in 2016; and more then one-third of BA-defined regional breweries had either flat or declining sales. The damage was heaviest at the top of the standings: four of the five biggest crafts—D.G. Yuengling & Sons, Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and Gambrinus Company—suffered a sales decline. The top five’s only gainer was New Belgium Brewing Company.

According to the BA’s Bart Watson, the regionals are getting squeezed by both ends of the industry. Anheuser-Busch Companies, whose acquisition of craft brands has stirred up controversy, is snapping up retail space at the expense of the regionals. Meanwhile, many retailers are focused on getting the products of small local breweries on their shelves, again to the regionals’ detriment.

There were some bright spots, however. Regionals that upped production in 2016 include Bell’s Brewery, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, and Rheingeist Brewery. Several others that no longer meet the BA’s definition of “craft”, such as Founders Brewing Company and Lagunitas Brewing Company, also posted gains for the year.

A Clever, Beer-Themed April Fool’s Prank

Today, CraftBeer.com reported that the heads of four craft-brewing pioneers–Kim Jordan (New Belgium), Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Garrett Oliver (Brooklyn Brewery) and Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head)–will be chipped out of Half Dome, the 9,000-foot-tall granite formation in Yosemite National Park. It also reported that the landmark will be named “Craft Dome”.

It gets better:

[I]t all started with a call from Leslie Knope a few weeks ago. Grossman says the Pawnee, Indiana, native who rose to the top of the ranks of the National Park Service was looking for a way the government could give props to the rise of small and independent brewing in America.

“She said she wanted to put a project together to honor the founding of craft brewing…Since California is the birthplace they wanted to do it at Half Dome.”

There’s also a video from Sierra Nevada’s Facebook page in which the four honorees explain the Craft Dome plan.

Well done, ladies and gentlemen. Well done.

The Significance of Snoop Dogg v. Pabst

The legal battle between rapper Snoop Dogg and Pabst Brewing Company might sound like tabloid material, but the case is putting the spotlight on financing deals that have become increasingly common in the craft beer industry.

Snoop Dogg contends that his agreement to promote Colt .45 contained a “phantom equity” clause: if Colt .45 were sold, he’d become a 10-percent owner of the brand. Pabst, which owns Colt .45 and numerous other brands, was sold last year. Pabst’s new owners told the judge that the sale changed “control” of Colt .45, but not its ownership—which was, and still is, Pabst. The case will be tried before a jury this fall.

Marketwatch.com’s Jason Notte urges would-be buyers of craft breweries to do their homework or else face the possibility of a similar lawsuit. He points out that a number of craft breweries, some of them worth hundreds of millions of dollars, have legal obligations to meet in the event of a sale. For example, employees own a substantial number of shares of New Belgium Brewing Company, whose estimated valuation well over $1 billion. If New Belgium is ever sold, its employees are in line for a big payday.

At least New Belgium’s ownership structure is straightforward. That isn’t the case of some other craft breweries, which are part of larger holding companies, controlled by private equity funds, or both. If those breweries have outstanding agreements like the Snoop Dogg contract, there are tricky questions as to what transactions would trigger the obligation to pay—and who actually has to write the check—after a sale occurs.

Which brings us back to Snoop Dogg. Notte observes, “Snoop’s case against Pabst could set a precedent for how breweries in those umbrella portfolios are treated, and how they can treat their employees, investors and contractors, in the future.”

The Friday Mash (“Rhapsody in Blue” Edition)

On this day in 1924, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” premiered in New York at a concert titled “An Experiment in Modern Music.” Paul Whiteman and his band performed the work, with Gershwin playing the piano.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Zalec, a town in Slovenia’s hop-growing region. The city plans to spend €170,000 ($190,000) to build Europe’s first-ever “beer fountain”. For €6, visitors will be able to buy samples in a commemorative mug for three 10.5-ounce samples.

Craft beer is hard to find in Las Vegas. The reason? State laws which, until recently, allowed brewpubs only to sell directly to customers and imposed hefty license fees on brewpubs.

David Forde, a UK-based executive of the Heineken Company, thinks we should be drinking less because excessive drinking will create a backlash. Heineken’s latest ad campaign is “Moderate Drinkers Wanted”.

Some scientists believe that beer was the reason why our ancestors switched from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural existence. Beer was more nutritious than beer and, unlike water, was free of pathogens.

New Belgium Brewing Company has narrowed its list of sites for a second brewery to two: Asheville, North Carolina; and the Philadelphia area. The final decision should be made by June.

USA Today’s panel of beer experts have chosen 20 cities for its America’s “best beer scene” competition. Until February 29, you can vote for your favorite—but only once per day.

Finally, Forbes magazine’s Breanna Wilson went to the 16-room Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Delaware. The inn doesn’t sell Dogfish Head beer onsite because it wants guests to wander the town’s restaurants—one of which is Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats.

More Acquisitions News

Reuters reports that New Belgium Brewing Company has hired the advisory firm Lazard Middle Market, which has worked with other craft breweries exploring a possible sale. According to people familiar with the matter, New Belgium’s valuation could exceed $1 billion, the price Constellation Brands paid for Ballast Point Brewing Company.

Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch announced that it has acquired Arizona’s leading craft brewer, Four Peaks Brewing Company. Known for its Kilt Lifter Scottish-style ale, Four Peaks becomes the sixth brewery in A-B’s craft division, The High End.

The Friday Mash (Tiffany’s Edition)

On this day in 1837, the retailer now known as Tiffany’s was founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young in New York City. The founders called their store a “stationery and fancy goods emporium.” However, Tiffany’s didn’t serve breakfast, let alone Founder’s Breakfast Stout.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Sacramento, where the inaugural California Craft Beer Summit took place. This two-day festival attracted the biggest names in craft brewing, who talked about the state of the industry.

Listen up, class. Sylvester Schneider, the owner of Zum Schneider in New York City, has prepared a video to show you how to pour wheat, pilsner, and lager beer like a German.

A boarding school in Zimbabwe has slapped a ban on breakfast cereal. Students mixed it with brown sugar, water, and yeast, then left it in the sun to ferment into beer.

The recipes for New Belgium Brewing Company’s dubbel and trippel Belgian-style ales are getting a makeover. The changes, which include a different yeast strain, will make the beers more authentically Belgian tasting.

A video of six Scottish men, drinking beer at the bottom of a swimming pool while on vacation in Florida, was viewed more than 1.8 million times on YouTube in the week after it was posted.

Greg Koch, the founder of Stone Brewing Company, is stepping down as CEO. He’ll stay on as executive chairman, and he promises not to sell out to one of the big breweries.

Finally, even though China is a huge beer market, intense competition has made it tough for breweries to make much of a profit. That problem could get worse as the country’s economy slows.

The Friday Mash (Social Security Edition)

Today is the 80th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of the Social Security Act. More than 50 million Americans, most of whom are retirees, receive Social Security benefits. That number will grow as members of the Baby Boom generation reach retirement age.

And now (can I see some ID, please?)….The Mash! 

We begin in North Korea, whose government is looking for foreign investors for a brewery in Wosnan. The country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, wants to turn the port city into a tourist attraction.

Jim Koch, the CEO of Boston Beer Company, blames high U.S. corporate taxes for acquisitions that have left foreign firms in control of 90 percent of America’s brewing industry.

The oldest known receipt for beer is a more than 4,000-year-old Sumerian tablet in which a scribe acknowledges receiving approximately 4-1/2 liters of Alulu the brewer’s “best beer.”

At New Belgium Brewing Company, Kim Jordan is turning over her CEO duties to another woman, Christine Perich, the chief operating officer. Jordan will head the brewery’s board of directors.

The Los Angeles Times’s John Verive decodes seven words—clean, dry, phenolic, creamy, hot, soft, and light—that are often found in reviews of craft beers.

White Bull beer, a symbol of South Sudan’s independence, is on the endangered list. Armed conflict has left White Bull’s brewer short on foreign currency it needs to import fuel and materials.

Finally, “Biscuit,” who works at the Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis sneaked “Tom Brady Sux” next to the “born-on” date on 20,000 cans of Wee Mac Scottish Ale. His future work will have to be approved by his higher-ups.

The Friday Mash (Pluto Edition)

Eighty-five years ago today, Pluto was officially named. Upon its discovery, Pluto was recognized as the solar system’s ninth planet. However, in 2006 the International Astronomical Union’s formal definition of “planet,” resulted in Pluto’s demotion to dwarf-planet status.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Wisconsin, where the fifth annual Madison Beer Week kicks off today. Co-founder Jeffrey Glazer talks about the growth of Beer Week and how beer culture has changed in Madison.

If you’re on the Paleo Diet, grain-based beer is off the menu. Scientists say it shouldn’t be. Our ancestors were creative enough to turn both grain and fruit into alcoholic beverages.

Nicolette Wenzell of the Palm Springs Historical Society takes us back to the 1950s, when the El Mirador Hotel hosted a weekly Bavarian Night. The event became so popular that local stores stocked lederhosen and felt hats.

Anti-alcohol groups are criticizing Ben & Jerry’s for getting into the beer business. The ice-cream maker is collaborating with New Belgium Brewing Company to make Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, to be released this fall.

Paste magazine assembled a panel of experts to rank 39 American wheat beers. The overall winner was Allagash White.

Notable NBA draft bust Darko Milicic has embarked on a new career in the world of kickboxing. He’s also perfected the art of chugging a beer with no hands.

Finally, the owners of Scottish brewery Brewdog have big plans. They hope to expand their brewery, and add a distillery and a hotel to the operation. Also on the drawing board: opening 15 to 20 Brewdog bars across the U.K.

Which Colorado Breweries Are Takeover Targets?

Colorado has some 225 breweries, and the Denver Post’s Eric Gorski is asking the (much more than) $64,000 question: Which of these breweries is going to be acquired? Recent activity suggests that the most attractive takeover targets are breweries that turn out more than 40,000 barrels a year. Colorado has a number of those.

However, the owners of Colorado’s top five breweries insist that they’re not selling out. Oskar Blues Brewery said that it’s going to be a buyer, not a seller. New Belgium Brewing Company’s founder sold her shares to brewery workers, and the company is 100-percent employee owned. Odell Brewing is “not on the market.” Left Hand Brewing is committed to staying independent. And Breckenridge Brewing says it had no intention of selling out.

Despite the breweries’ denials, Gorski maintains that an acquisition is not out of the question. He says, “If the recent industry upheaval shows anything, it’s this: Don’t be surprised by anything.”

The Friday Mash (Not Mr. Met Edition)

On this day in 1872, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in Manhattan. With more than two million works in its permanent collection, “The Met”—not to be confused with baseball mascot “Mr. Met”—is one of the largest art museums in the world.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Turkey, where security guards red-carded a fan for trying to smuggle beer into a soccer stadium. A whole case of bottles, in an outfit he’d designed for that purpose.

The latest trademark fight pits New Belgium Brewing Company and Oasis, Texas Brewing Company, both of which brew a beer called “Slow Ride”. New Belgium filed its mark ahead of Oasis, but Oasis’s beer hit the market first.

Vietnam’s robust drinking culture—there is no word for “hangover”—is raising concerns about health as citizens grow wealthier. A glass of beer costs just 30 U.S. cents.

Screenwriter and director Matthew Vaughn says that Guinness provided the inspiration for Kingsman: The Secret Service. Over pints, Vaughn and comic book maestro Mark Miller came up with the idea of an old-school spy movie.

The popularity of IPA and other craft beer has forced Iowa lawmakers to revisit the definition of “beer”. Beverages with 5 to 8 percent ABV currently exist in a legal twilight zone.

An Austin, Texas, company has developed a product called Kube, which combines a high-quality portable sound system and a beverage cooler. It’s designed to be used at parties and outdoor events.

Finally, Empire Brewing Company is collaborating with China’s Jingwei Fu Tea Company to brew Two Dragons beer. It starts out mellow and woody, and finishes with a sweet tea-like taste. Empire hopes to export it to China.

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