Ballast Point Brewing Co. was bought by Constellation Brands in 2015 for $1 billion at the incredible height of the craft brewery acquisition craze. No other North American craft brewery was bought for more by my knowledge — except for maybe Lagunitas Brewing Co. — which Heineken bought in two different purchases (only one of which is known[ish], estimated to be about $500 million). That phase of global companies buying American craft brands has slowed down dramatically, noting Constellation did purchase Four Corners Brewing out of Dallas last year, so it hasn’t totally stopped.
But there’s a new phase for many of those acquired craft brands (or brands with large outside investors like Founders Brewing Co. or Brooklyn Brewing Co.), of opening satellite brewpubs around the United States and even overseas to entrench their brands in those markets. Ballast Point has eight locations in California and 10 total in the United States, counting its three new own-premise retail locations — Chicago, Anaheim and soon San Francisco.
In May of 2018, Ballast Point opened a brewpub in Chicago’s Fulton Market District with an on-site 3-bbl brewing system, a restaurant and eventually a rooftop bar. Just this month, Ballast Point officially opened the Ballast Point Brewpub at Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. This brewpub marks the first-ever brewery at the Downtown Disney District. The location is being marketed as a family-friendly spot that offers more than 50 styles of Ballast Point’s beer across 100 tap lines. Sounds like my kind of family outing for sure.
Last August, Constellation announced it would be opening a tasting room and kitchen in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood in early 2019. We’ve reached out for an exact date. The location will mark Ballast Point’s first in Northern California brewing location and its eighth throughout the state when it opens. The San Fran location will house a restaurant and on-site R&D brewery. The restaurant’s menu will offer localized fare inspired by San Francisco as well as a taste of San Diego with some of Ballast Point’s most popular brewpub dishes.
Despite all this expansion, Ballast Point is notably absent from Constellation’s recent quarterly reports. Constellation’s big growth brands have been its American rights to Corona and Modelo. According to a Chicago Tribune story covering the opening of the Chicago location last year:
After more than doubling sales in 2014 and 2015, the brewery’s growth slowed in 2016. Then last year, retail sales for Ballast Point beers dropped to about $57.8 million, a decline of about 7.8 percent from $62.7 million the previous year, according to figures from Chicago market research firm IRI, which do not include sales at Costco or at liquor stores.
The number of barrels of Ballast Point beer shipped to wholesalers last year declined more than 14 percent — from about 370,000 barrels in 2016 to about 316,000, according to data from Beer Marketer’s Insights, a trade publication. Ballast Point has experienced further decline this year , said David Steinman, senior editor with Craft Brew News, which is affiliated with Beer Marketer’s Insights.
Ballast Point is a pioneer in the California craft beer scene, and it is still very much famous for its signature Sculpin IPA and Grapefruit Sculpin. We have reached out to Constellation for an update on further Ballast Point expansions and how the brand is doing in general. We’ll update this article if we hear back.