Before we address that headline, let’s play who owns that brewery. Saratoga Brewing Co. (traditionalists might call it the Olde Saratoga Brewing Co.) is one of New York’s oldest craft brewers (if 1997 seems old to you). The company is actually an off-shoot, East Coast operation owned by Mendocino Brewing Co., which is based in Ukiah, Calif. (about two and half hours west of Sacramento). Mendocino Brewing is actually owned by United Breweries Holdings Limited or UB Group, which is an Indian conglomerate company. And guess who owns 43 percent of UB Group as of March 2016? That would be Heineken.
Fun fact: UB Group is fairly infamous right now for its former non-executive chairman — Indian businessman Vijay Mallya — who is currently the subject of an extradition effort to try to force his return from the United Kingdom to India to face charges of financial crimes that total some $1 billion. Read about his craziness right here.
Fun fact 2: Mallya is also the majority shareholder of Mendocino Brewing Co.
Mallya’s troubles seem to have caught up to Saratoga Brewing and Mendocino Brewing, which have both suddenly shut down facilities in the last two weeks. In fact, Saratoga Brewing’s shutdown last Tuesday, was a giant WTF moment for other breweries that were contract brewing through Saratoga. Look at this post from Braven Brewing of Brooklyn:
When you’re told your partner brewery has gone out of business and you have 72 hours to remove $60,000 of packaging material and get 800 kegs worth of beer out of the tanks, what do you do? You get in your car and drive 4 hours north to conduct a rescue operation! We were able to move 60 pallets of kegs, keg collars, keg caps, bottle caps, 6 pack carriers, and 24 pack cases into storage on Friday morning. Then we salvaged about $3,000 of hops, threw them into the car, and UPS’ed them to another brewery for future batches. On Saturday, two tanker trucks arrived and, thanks to @thebronxbrewery’s help with a one-of-a-kind fitting, we connected both of the 200 BBL fermenters up to the trucks. Each took about 2.5 hours to fill to the brim. In the meantime it was practically arctic conditions with single digit temps and snow blowing every which way. All of this constitutes the closing of one chapter in Saratoga and the beginning of another at @ipswichalebrew We’re thrilled to start brewing our current styles as well as a bevy of new ones there ASAP. More news on those to come in the very near future… We drove back to Brooklyn on Saturday night knowing that Braven can handle everything from minor speed bumps to major roadblocks because we never give up. Onward and upward.
Neither Saratoga nor Mendocino Brewing issued any statements — nor does one seem planned. According to NYup.com:
Saratoga has operated a 125-barrel brewhouse, with the capability of fermenting even larger batches, making it one of the top 10 largest breweries in New York. It started in 1997 under the ownership of Nor’wester Brewing of Oregon. It later got a loan from the UB Group, which it defaulted on, leading to the takeover by the Indian company. Around the same time, UB Group acquired Mendocino, one of the earliest American craft breweries, based in northern California.
UB’s Vijay Mallya, 62, has been living in London and fighting extradition to his native India, where he faces charges of fraud and money laundering that amounts to more than $1 billion.
None of that sounds too encouraging.