ABI Buys Birra Del Borgo

ABI birra-del-borgo-blk
Anheuser-Busch InBev announced yesterday that they’ve notched another brewery, this time it’s Italy’s celebrated Birra del Borgo. Under the terms of the deal, Birra del Borgo will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of AB InBev, though the price was not disclosed.

From the press release:

Birra del Borgo is happy to announce that it has decided to partner with Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev). The partnership will give Birra del Borgo, one of the leading craft brewers in Italy, a unique opportunity to make the necessary investments for expansion while continuing to independently manage its business and define how to grow.

AB InBev will provide the support to allow Birra de 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.

In 2005, Birra Del Borgo was founded by Leonardo Di Vincenzo in Borgorose, a small town in the province of Rieti on the border between Lazio and Abruzzo in Italy. Leonardo started brewing beer at home for enjoyment while at University studying biochemistry. He traveled frequently throughout Europe to explore the traditional beer styles; getting to know the German and Belgium master brewers was crucial to his education. One of Leonardo’s most formative experiences was brewing at the Starbess brewery in Rome, which later led to his conception of Birra del Borgo. Leonardo’s initial inspiration comes from English & Belgian beers, but he then reinvented the styles to root them in the Italian gastronomy culture. Leonardo currently produces ten beers year round, some famous such as ReAle, Duchessa, DucAle. Other Birra del Borgo products include 4 Seasonals inspired by local ingredients and several unique beers brewed with original techniques, under the “Bizzarre” family. Leo’s inspiration is dictated by the moment and seasonality related to the main ingredient, with a passion to reinvent styles and push boundaries.

Leonardo will remain the CEO of Birra Del Borgo.

Leonardo 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.

The partnership with AB InBev will bring us many advantages, from technological improvements and access to scientific research to the possibility to grow from a commercial point of view. Moreover, this partnership also means that we will be able to focus much more on what we enjoy most and do best: creating and experimenting with exciting new beers and pushing the boundaries of beer evolution in Italy.

He added: “We will continue brewing all of our beers in Borgorose, which will allow us to grow by continuing to invest in our local community, as we have always done. At Birra del Borgo, we have a great team with enormous enthusiasm and love for what we do every day. It is with this team that we start this exciting second chapter in Birra del Borgo’s history. The heart and soul of Birra del Borgo will remain unchanged and it is with the very same passion and love for beer that we will continue Re(Thinking) Ale”.

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. As a challenger on the Italian market, we have been successfully developing our business with a great portfolio of premium and specialty brands in the last few years. Today, that portfolio becomes even stronger with some of the best of “Made in Italy.”

del-borgo-2016

Indian Gov’t Issues Arrest Warrant For Mendocino Brewing Owner Vijay Mallya

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Those of you who’ve been in the beer world for a few decades will no doubt remember the tumultuous period around 1997 when Vijay Mallya, and his UB Group, which also owns the Indian beer Kingfisher, started buying up breweries. They picked up Nor’Wester Brewing first, along with a few others, and UB Group consolidated their U.S. holdings under the name “United Craft Brewers, Inc.,” or simply “United Craft.” The first five included Nor’Wester Brewing Company of Portland, OR; Aviator Ales of Woodinville, WA; Mile High Brewing of Denver, CO; Bayhawk Ales of Irvine, CA; and North Country Brewing of Saratoga Springs, NY. United Craft later added Mendocino Brewing Co. of Hopland, CA and Humboldt Brewing of Arcata, CA, and then Carmel Brewing of Carmel, CA. United Craft lists a Sausalito address, which is coincidentally where owner Vijay Mallya also built a multi-million dollar home. But essentially only Mendocino Brewing remains of the breweries as a viable brand, although Humboldt was sold off.

I remember when UB initially bought Mendocino Brewing and Mallya began visiting their distributors. He would attend distributor meetings with an actual entourage, including bodyguards, which was not exactly endearing to anybody. Within a short time the Mendocino brand, which had been very successful locally, began to fall precipitously. It’s never really recovered, though they do quite a bit of contract brewing out of their Ukiah facility. Mallya has a fairly ruthless reputation for his business practices, and I’ve spoken to at least two people who’ve done business with him in other industries who’ve had nothing flattering to say about the way he conducts himself, so the news being reported by the Drinks Business came as no surprise, except perhaps as to why it took so long. Undoubtedly, there, as here, the rules for billionaires are different than it is for you and me.

According to Drinks Business report, “Indian authorities have issued an arrest warrant against Vijay Mallya, the former head of United Spirits, just days after freezing his passport.”

The warrant was issued on the “third strike and out” practice of the Indian Enforcement Directorate (ED) when the colourful former tycoon failed to appear at the third time of asking at a Mumbai court to answer allegations of misuse of funds loaned to his Kingfisher Airlines by a state-owned bank, IDBI.

This is one of 17 Indian banks seeking to recover some $13 billion from Mallya. Last month they rejected his proposed scheme to repay $600 million.

It is alleged that Mallya used part of the $134m loan from IDBI to buy properties overseas. The airline, which was never profitable, collapsed into bankruptcy in 2012 with debts approaching £1bn.

Mallya has consistently denied impropriety and his private holding company, UB Group, said that the full loan, including up to $65m alleged to have been diverted to Mallya’s personal use, had been “used for legitimate business purposes only”.

The statement said that the arrest warrant was “erroneous and unjustified”.

Mallya, who is thought to be in Britain, has been ordered by India’s supreme court to disclose all his assets to the authorities.

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Inside the newer Mendocino brewery in Ukiah.

Asahi Buys Grolsch, Peroni & Meantime

asahi grolsch peroni meantime
Business Insider is reporting that Anheuser-Busch InBev, who’s in the process of closing the deal for SABMiller, agreed to sell off Grolsh, Peroni and Meantime Brewing, which is part of SABMiller’s portfolio, most likely in order to smooth the regulatory approvals necessary to close the transaction. In fact, this deal in contingent on the other one, so that if the ABI/SABMiller deals fall apart, then this one won’t go through either and they’ll remain part of SABMiller.

SABMiller posted a short press release today:

SABMiller plc (“SABMiller”) has been informed by Anheuser Busch InBev SA/NV (“AB InBev”) that following its announcement on 10 February, it has accepted the binding offer from Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd (“Asahi”) to acquire certain of SABMiller’s European premium brands and their related businesses (excluding certain US rights), following completion of the relevant employee information and consultation processes applicable to the sale of these brands and businesses.

The acquisition by Asahi of these premium brands and related businesses (comprised of the Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brand families and related businesses in Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and internationally (“the Business”)) is conditional on the successful closing of the recommended acquisition of SABMiller by AB InBev as announced on 11 November 2015, which itself contains certain regulatory pre-conditions and conditions, and the approval by the European Commission of Asahi as a purchaser of the Business.

SABMiller-minus-GMP

NBWA Brewery Count Over 4,800

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Some very interesting analysis from the NBWA, and their economist Lester Jones, about the number of breweries in America. Lester’s analysis uses slightly different metrics from the TTB and doesn’t define craft breweries as narrowly as the BA, and also the TTB doesn’t distinguish exactly what mat beverages are being made, if they’re licensed as a brewery then they’re included in the data. Those difference in calculating show the NBWA’s number for how many breweries there in America is 4,824, or over 550 more. But even more remarkable is that based on the number of “permitted breweries on record” at the TTB by the end of last year, that number could swell beyond 6,000, which seems absolutely crazy. The number is California alone, at 788, is just shy of 800. Sheesh!

Here’s the entire analysis below since the whole summary is worth reading:

Each year, the NBWA requests data from the TTB on tax paid withdraw volumes by size of brewery. Once again, this year’s TTB data provides some interesting brewing industry insights into the dynamics of the U.S. brewing industry. This data also is helpful for us to supplement the Brewers Association data on overall independent craft beer growth and brewery count. According to the BA, craft brewer volumes grew by 13 percent to 24.5 million barrels in 2015. The BA also reported 4,269 total operating breweries for 2015. As with all statistics, how the numbers are collected and reported can vary across organizations. In our industry, the numbers also change quickly.

As of April 2016, the U.S. domestic brewing industry had 4,824 reporting breweries according to the TTB. As with the BA’s brewery count of 4,269, this number is expected to change as additional new brewers are counted that may not yet have been fully recognized and/or reported by either the TTB or the BA data. The data presented below is for all types of malt beverage manufacturers and recognizes only the individual facility, not the ownership or control group.

Highlights from the 2015 TTB brewery count data include:

  1. The small brewer group (making less than 7,500 barrels) accounted for less than 2 percent of all domestic volumes yet accounted for 93 percent of all breweries. The smallest of this group has 566 breweries reporting less than one barrel of production each in 2015. These super small brewers can thank the contracting brewing industry for helping them sell almost 100,000 barrels – a figure well beyond their reported production capacity.
    The medium brewer group (making between 7,501 and 60,000 barrels) is a much smaller group consisting of 246 breweries, but these few breweries account for 1.6 times more volume than the 4,475 breweries in the small brewer group.
  2. The large brewer group consists of only 82 breweries making between 60,001 and 1.9 million barrels. This is a unique group within the industry as they pay the mixed rate federal excise tax of $7 for the first 60,000 barrels and $18 on each barrel over 60,001. While a much smaller group of only 82 breweries, they collectively produce more than four times the amount of beer as the medium brewer group. The large brewer group also has the largest range of production volumes and saw the fewest number of new entrants (17 breweries) into its ranks in 2015.
  3. Finally, we get the extra-large group. This is a group of only 21 breweries that produce more than 84 percent of all domestic beer – more than five times the amount made by all 4,803 combined. The closing of the MillerCoors brewery in Eden, North Carolina, will reduce this class of brewers by one in future reports and will take a significant-sized brewery offline for the first time in many years.
  4. The industry added around 1,500 new breweries in 2015 – that is equivalent to four new breweries a day entering the marketplace. As a highly capital-intensive business, starting small is the name of the game. Growing a beer brand takes a long time, and economies of scale are earned over decades. The largest U.S. breweries have been in operation for decades, and economies of scale should help maintain the beer volumes even in the face of declining per capita beer consumption.
  5. With more than 6,000 permitted breweries on record at the end of CY 2015, 2016 is set to be an even more competitive year for the brewing industry. Just as economies of scale drive the brewing side of the industry, logistical expertise and local market insights drive the efficiencies inherent in beer distributor networks. Working together and maximizing their comparative advantages, brewers, distributors and retailers will deliver unprecedented choice and value to American beer consumers in 2016.

Brewery counts by size 2015_Page_1

Brewery counts by size 2015_Page_2

ABI Buys Devils Backbone

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In what’s becoming almost routine news, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced this morning the acquisition of Devils Backbone Brewing of Roseland, Virginia.

Here’s the press release:

Today, Anheuser-Busch announced an agreement to acquire Devils Backbone Brewing Company, the leading and fastest-growing craft brewery in the state of Virginia. Devils Backbone will be the latest partner to join the diverse portfolio of craft breweries within The High End, the company’s business unit comprising unique craft and import brands.

“I am extremely pleased to announce the partnership of Devils Backbone Brewing Company with Anheuser-Busch. 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,” said Steve Crandall, co-founder and CEO of Devils Backbone Brewing Company. “The existing management team plans to stay on board for many years, while continuing to innovate and bring locally crafted Virginia beer to the nation.”

In 2008, founders Steve and Heidi Crandall opened the doors to Devils Backbone Brewing Company in the Virginia Heartland, after being inspired by a ski trip to northern Italy in 1991 where they had their first taste of Germanic style beer. After success with the first brewpub, Basecamp, the decision was made to break ground on the Outpost facility, in Lexington, Virginia. Originally projected to produce 10,000 barrels of beer in its first ten years, the Outpost produced almost 45,000 barrels in its first three. Steve credits much of this early success to the excellent network of distributors within his system, which is weighted heavily towards Anheuser-Busch.

“I congratulate Steve and Heidi Crandall and the entire Devils Backbone team as they partner with Anheuser-Busch,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. “Through the strength of Anheuser-Busch’s network of distributors, Devils Backbone’s award-winning craft beer will soon be available throughout the country and beyond. I want to thank Devils Backbone for their immense contribution to Virginia’s world-class craft beer industry, and I look forward to the additional exposure for Virginia as a leading state for craft beer lovers.”

Today, the Outpost Brewery & Taproom in Lexington serves as the primary production brewery while the Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows in Roseland, serves as a visitor destination. Devils Backbone takes full advantage of the scenic 100-acre Basecamp property surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering a variety of opportunities for guests to enjoy the outdoors. In 2015, the two locations hosted more than 500,000 guests.

“Devils Backbone has captivated beer drinkers in Virginia since opening its doors eight years ago,” said Felipe Szpigel, President, The High End. “From the beginning, they have shown creativity and talent with the great beers they brew, and they’ve been able to use the authentic offerings at Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows to cultivate a fun, outdoor lifestyle that resonates with everyone. Pair these qualities with dynamic leadership and a dream to do something bigger, and you have the recipe for an even more promising future.”

While best known for its flagship Vienna Lager, which accounted for nearly 60% of Devils Backbone volume in 2015, the portfolio also includes other award-winning year-round favorites like Eight Point IPA and Schwartz Bier. Developing beers with personality and individual integrity of flavor has helped enable Devils Backbone to win four National titles: 2014 Great American Beer Festival Mid-Size Brewery & Brew Team, 2013 Small Brewing Company & Small Brewing Company Brew Team, 2012 Small Brewpub & Small Brewpub Brewer, 2010 World Beer Cup Champion Brewery, and the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest Best of Show medals in 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.

First Beverage Group acted as financial advisor to Devils Backbone Brewing Company. Anheuser-Busch’s partnership with Devils Backbone is expected to close in the second quarter, subject to customary closing conditions. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

devilsbackbone-coaster

Scranton Media Family Buys Flying Fish

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I somehow missed this news, which seems to have come out without too much fanfare a few days ago. Maybe we’re becoming desensitized to brewery M&A? Certainly Twitter wasn’t abuzz with the news. Flying Fish Brewing, one of New Jersey’s earliest small brewers, was bought by the Lynett and Haggerty families, who own Times-Shamrock Communications. They own a dozen newspapers and eleven radio stations. On April 8, they announced that they’d bought a controlling interest in the Somerdale, New Jersey brewery, though the deal was quietly done a month earlier, on March 11.

Flying Fish was founded in 1995 by Gene Muller. They started in Cherry Hill, but moved to larger quarters in Sommerville four years ago.

According to the Scranton Times-Tribune (one of the papers owned by the family), this is how it went down.

The family’s expertise in marketing, events and promotions will help the brewery continue to grow and expand its footprint, said Bobby Lynett, manager of L&H Brewing Partners, the entity that now holds a majority interest in Flying Fish. They declined to disclose the cost of their acquisition.

“Flying Fish is a nice brewery with good people and a great product,” said Mr. Lynett, a publisher of The Times-Tribune. “We want to help it grow.”

Flying Fish currently employs 33 people who produce about 24,000 barrels of beer each year.

Gene Muller, founder of Flying Fish, said he began looking for new partners when some initial investors began to cash out on their investment in the company. He joked that the Scranton family emerged as a good fit “because they are Irish.”

Mr. Muller, 61, believes Flying Fish will benefit from events and other business interests of the Lynett-Haggerty families, whom he refers to as “The Scranton Guys.”

“There are obvious synergies,” he said. “We saw an opportunity to inject some enthusiasm into the company and take care of our initial investors. The Scranton Guys are part of a 100-year-old company. They understand the long-term horizon.”

The capital for L&H Brewing Partners came from some individual family members and Elk Lake Capital, set up by the family to invest in non-media companies to add diversity to the family’s holdings beyond Times-Shamrock’s media holdings of newspapers, radio stations and outdoor advertising. Elk Lake already owns a land-surveying company and water-testing company.

Toasting the Class of '96: Greg Koch, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam CalagioneAt a Philly Beer Week event celebrating the Class of '96: Greg Koch, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam Calagione.

First Casualty Of Cuban Tourism: Beer Shortages

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You’ve no doubt seen the news that we’ve finally relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba, along with many other changes to our policies regarding the island nation. Last summer, the two countries agreed to reopen embassies on their respective soil, and re-establish diplomatic relations. President Obama recently visited Cuba, the first American head of state to do so since 1928, 88 years ago. Despite the travel ban, small numbers of Americans had been visiting Cuba by going through Mexico or other countries where travel there is not restricted. But now that it’s legal again, record numbers are visiting, leading to the first real problem caused by this influx of American tourists. According to Mashable, Tourists are drinking all of Cuba’s beer.

“The first clear sign that Cuba will have difficulty keeping up with the influx of American tourists — certain only to increase as restrictions are loosened — is a beer shortage.

Good job, America.”

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The Top 50 Annotated 2015

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This is my ninth annual annotated list of the Top 50, skipping two years ago because the BA provided that information then, so here again you can see who moved up and down, who was new to the list and who dropped off. So here is this year’s list again annotated with how they changed compared to last year.

  1. Anheuser-Busch InBev; #1 last ten years, no surprise
  2. MillerCoors; ditto for #2
  3. Pabst Brewing; ditto for #3
  4. D. G. Yuengling and Son; Same as last year
  5. Boston Beer Co.; Same as last year
  6. North American Breweries; Same as last year
  7. Sierra Nevada Brewing; Same as last year
  8. New Belgium Brewing; Same as last year
  9. Craft Brewers Alliance; Same as last year
  10. Lagunitas Brewing; Up 1 from #11 last year
  11. Gambrinus Company; Down 1 from #10 last year
  12. Bell’s Brewery; Same as last year
  13. Deschutes Brewery; Same as last year
  14. Minhas Craft Brewery; Up 2 from #16 last year
  15. Stone Brewing; Down 1 from #14 last year
  16. Sleeman Brewing; Down 1 from #15 last year
  17. Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits; Rocketed up 20 from #37 last year
  18. Brooklyn Brewery; Down 1 from #17 last year
  19. Firestone Walker Brewing; Up 3 from #22 last year
  20. Founders Brewing; Up 3 from #23 last year
  21. Oskar Blues Brewing; Jumped up 9 from #30
  22. Duvel Moortgat USA (Boulevard Brewing/Ommegang); Down 4 from #18 last year
  23. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Down 4 from #19 last year
  24. Matt Brewing; Down 4 from #20 last year
  25. SweetWater Brewing; Down 1 from #24 last year
  26. Harpoon Brewery; Down 5 from #21 last year
  27. New Glarus Brewing; Down 2 from #25 last year
  28. Great Lakes Brewing; Up 1 from #29 last year
  29. Alaskan Brewing; Down 3 from #26 last year
  30. Abita Brewing; Down 3 from #27 last year
  31. Anchor Brewing; Down 3 from #28 last year
  32. Stevens Point Brewery; Same as last year
  33. Victory Brewing; Up 2 from #35 last year
  34. August Schell Brewing; Down 1 from #33 last year
  35. Long Trail Brewing; Down 1 from #36 last year
  36. Summit Brewing; Down 2 from #34 last year
  37. Shipyard Brewing; Down 6 from #31 last year
  38. Full Sail Brewing; Up 5 from #39 last year
  39. Odell Brewing; Up 1 from #40 last year
  40. Southern Tier Brewing; Up 1 from #41 last year
  41. Rogue Ales Brewery; Down 3 from #38 last year
  42. 21st Amendment Brewery; Jumped up 7 from 49 last year
  43. Ninkasi Brewing; Down 1 from #42 last year
  44. Flying Dog Brewery; Same as last year
  45. Narragansett Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year
  46. Pittsburgh Brewing (fka Iron City); Down 1 from #45 last year
  47. Left Hand Brewing; Up 1 from #48 last year
  48. Uinta Brewing; Down 2 from #46 last year
  49. Green Flash Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year
  50. Allagash Brewing; Same as last year

Not too much movement this year, except for a few small shufflings. The top is virtually unchanged, with only numbers 10 and 11 switching places. And apart from those two small changes, the top 13 were all the same as 2014. The biggest jump came from Ballast Point, which leapt up 20 spots, while Shipyard slipped the furthest, dropping six slots. Only two new breweries made the list; Green Flash Brewing and Narragansett Brewing. Off the list was World Brew/Winery Exchange, a California contract label brewer making private label beers for retailers, and Bear Republic Brewing.

If you want to see the previous annotated lists for comparison, here is 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Top 50 Craft Breweries For 2015

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The Brewers Association just announced the top 50 craft breweries in the U.S. based on sales, by volume, for 2015, which is listed below here. I should also mention that this represents “craft breweries” according to the BA’s membership definition, and not necessarily how most of us would define them, as there’s no universally agreed upon way to differentiate the two. For the eighth year, they’ve also released a list of the top 50 breweries, which includes all breweries. Here is this year’s craft brewery list:

2016_Top_50-craft

Here is this year’s press release. The last couple of years, the BA has helpfully annotated the list, saving me lots of time, since I’ve been annotating the list for the last eight years, but they’ve abandoned that practice this time around. So for the eighth consecutive year, I’ll also posted an annotated list, showing the changes in each brewery’s rank from year to year, but it will take me some time to put together so I’ll have that again later today.

The BA, this year, did create a map showing the relative location of each of the breweries that made the list.

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