Anheuser-Busch and its Belgian mothership Anheuser-Busch InBev continue to assimilate American craft breweries, so that coffers might grow ever fatter with riches and investor returns. Now, Beer Voltron (our dumb name for AB InBev brands) has perhaps secured one of its most strategic acquisitions since Goose Island in the form of Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing Co.
Wicked Weed Brewing not only operates in Asheville (one of America’s truly inspired craft beer meccas), it owns four facilities in Asheville — the original downtown brewpub where the company produces more than 150 different beers a year, the Funkatorium, the first dedicated sour beer taproom and barrel house on the East Coast, a 50-barrel (bbl) production brewery in west Asheville and the “Funk House and company headquarters,” a custom-designed brewhouse and training facility. These four facilitates would instantly give Beer Voltron a geographic strategic advantage in the Carolinas.
From the press release:
“This is an exciting time for the entire brewing team,” said [Wicked Weed] co-founder Walt Dickinson. “Our ability to create a wide range of really well executed beers that are focused on creativity, quality and drinkability is what makes Wicked Weed great. We have chosen to partner with The High End to position ourselves to make Wicked Weed what we imagined it could be when we first sat at a craft beer bar and talked about opening a brewery. As a brewer, giving our team more resources to continue innovating our portfolio and the ability to reach more craft drinkers, allows us to keep putting the beer and the people first.”
Hold up: Is AB InBev even allowed to do this? After the long-anticipated, $100-billion-plus merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller last year (the third largest acquisition in the history of acquisitions), the Department of Justice noted it will need to review any future acquisitions of beer distributors or craft brands as an anti-trust precaution, seeing as Beer Voltron owns about 45 percent of the American beer market right now. So right now, Anheuser-Busch’s “partnership” with Wicked Weed is subject to regulatory approval.
Wicked Weed Brewing will be joining The High End, Anheuser-Busch’s business unit focused on its craft and import brands, including the likes of Goose Island, Blue Point Brewing, Elysian Brewing, 10 Barrel Brewing, Golden Road Brewing, Four Peaks Brewing, Breckenridge Brewery, Virtue Cider and Devils Backbone Brewing. On top of snatching up craft brands, what has AB InBev been up to? Well, it’s been expanding into regional markets big time via destination breweries with craft brands it already owns or brands it’s creating from scratch. Dig this:
- Since Golden Roads’ acquisition by AB InBev in 2015, LA’s biggest brewhouse has been aggressively expanding in distribution all over the United States and in brewing destinations all over California. The brewery is currently constructing a brewing outpost in Anaheim, has already secured space in LA’s Grand Central Market and even opened a restaurant at LAX (its Point the Way Café). Golden Road has also announced new destinations in both Sacramento (last year) and (now) in Oakland.
- Beer Voltron is opening a chain of pubs based on its Goose Island Beer Co. brand in the Euro community. AB InBev is planning two Goose Island pubs in London, along with a third destination in its home country of Belgium.
- AB InBev just announced it was adding another brand to its “High-End” portfolio (its so called craft- and import-focused brands) with the launch of Veza Sur Brewing Co. in Miami this summer. The beverage roll-up has turned to two of its properties, Colombia’s Bogota Beer Co. and Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing, to make it all happen.
We’ll start waiting for a Wicked Weed brewpub to end up in Cleveland. Like Golden Road, Wicked Weed Brewing is a relative newcomer to the craft industry (founded in late 2012), but its beers have been outstanding and its Asheville locations have been big draws for beer fans. Apparently, the deal’s been in the works for a while; most deals are.
The AB + WW deal has been in the works for months now. WW informed another bidder in late Jan. that it would sell to AB, I’m told.
— Chris Furnari (@BrewboundFurn) May 3, 2017
So I guess in summary, blah.