For some craft brewers, staying small and operating within their means is their modus operandi. It’s not about creating a company that makes tons of money and then selling it off — it’s about the beer. In his book, Brewing up a Business, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery founder Sam Calagione says, “It just seems to me that going public is by definition anti-entrepreneurial. You cannot let the tail of money wag the dog of inspiration.” But as the craft beer industry continues to grow, that’s not stopping interested investors from soliciting craft brewers.
Bloomberg’s recent feature on the pressures on craft brewers to sell chronicles a new trend in craft brewing, and even captures the independent spirit of craft brewers who aren’t afraid to toss money back into a banker’s face. Or use it to buy beer.
SweetWater Brewing Co. Chief Executive Officer Freddy Bensch gets plenty of solicitations from potential acquirers.
One stands out: a handwritten note with a crisp $50 bill from a banker begging for a meeting. The greenback was so pristine and odd a gesture that Bensch wondered if it was real.
“We took that $50 bill over to the pub and spent it on beers, and they accepted it,” said Bensch, who co-founded the maker of hoppy 420 Extra Pale Ale and chocolaty Exodus Porter with a college roommate. “We didn’t accept the meeting. We toasted him when we were buying beers with his $50.”
The article details the efforts of MillerCoor’s Tenth & Blake Beer Co. division, which was created in part to develop and acquire craft beers and owns a minority stake in Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Co., and even speculates that some craft brewers who are underwater in their businesses might be tempted to sell. Additionally, the fast-growing Bell’s Brewery is featured as Larry Bell explains the pressures he faces regularly:
He’s trained the receptionist to screen them out. During a meeting a couple of months ago with a major bank, Bell was shown an internal document detailing how to structure deals with various brewers. Bell’s name was on the list.
A top executive from a mega-brewer that Bell declined to name once slipped a business card into Bell’s pocket at a beer summit in San Diego saying only, “You’re selling. I’m buying.” Bell wasn’t and didn’t.
The loudest message in Bloomberg’s story: Craft brewers are not selling. It’s a refrain that is strengthened by Stone Brewing Co.’s Greg Koch at the end of the feature. For all the details, check out the full story over at Bloomberg.