It was a busy day yesterday. Good thing I took a nap. I feel rested. What did I miss? Oh look here, the Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) announced it would take a minority 24.5 percent stake in Miami’s Wynwood Brewing Co., which should keep Wynwood within the Brewers Association (BA) rule as “craft.” It’s actually just about the same percentage Brooklyn Brewery and Japan’s Kirin have agreed upon, so I guess we should expect a new breed of minority owners that stay below this part of the BA’s definition of what is truly a craft brewery.
Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
What’s the deal? Wynwood Brewing gains access to CBA’s state-of-the-art production capabilities and regional sales and marketing infrastructure, and CBA gets a new foothold in Miami. The CBA is a publicly traded craft beer rollup (backed by Anheuser-Busch) that owns (amongst other things) Redhook Ale Brewery, Widmer Brothers Brewing and Kona Brewing Co. The only problem with those breweries? They are all situated on one side of the country — Washington, Oregon and Hawaii. Now, CBA has an investment in a craft brand in the East Coast vacation/hospice hotspot known as Florida.
New Holland and Pabst become friends
What else happened yesterday? Well, New Holland Brewing Co. signed a deal with Pabst Brewing Co. to distribute its craft beer nationally. Man, you take one lousy nap. I mean, it just seems like only last week (wait, it was) that I was talking about Simon Thorpe being announced as the new chief executive officer of Pabst.
Thorpe was previously president and CEO of Duvel Moortgat USA, where he led the transformation of the company’s U.S. craft brewing business into a respected leader in the craft segment. He was instrumental in building some pretty impressive craft relationships with the likes of Brewery Ommegang in Upstate New York, as well as partnerships with Boulevard Brewing Co. and Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Thorpe also led the development of Duvel Moortgat’s import brand portfolio, including Duvel, La Chouffe, Liefmans and Mardesous.
We all assumed Pabst, which has a beer portfolio of basically nostalgia brands like Colt 45, Lone Star and Pabst Blue Ribbon, would be getting into the craft game quickly, but it looks like real quickly is the correct descriptor. Once the partnership is fully implemented, Pabst will sell all of New Holland’s beers to wholesalers nationwide. Despite the partnership, New Holland says it will remain independent and all beers will continue to be brewed in Holland, Mich. According to the press release:
“We are excited to be joining forces with Pabst as we combine the strengths of two great American companies,” said VanderKamp in a release. “Pabst’s management of our wholesale network will help us accelerate growth and drive success at the shelf.”
UPDATE: Pabst read our story and Simon Thorpe sent us over a quote, expressing how unique this kind of deal really is:
“To my knowledge, this is the first deal in the history of craft beer where a large supplier is getting into a partnership with a small brewer without taking any ownership or receiving any option to buy the shares,” said Thorpe. “This is a long-term agreement setup so that it can last for the next 20 years and beyond. It is not about Pabst simply selling some New Holland beer for a fee — there is a bigger idea in what we are building together that speaks to mutual trust, true partnership and a long-term vision of what we can accomplish.”