We’ll get to the news, but indulge us first in a dumb story. Regular CBB readers know that Beer Voltron has been our code name for AB InBev after it combined with SAB Miller to form, at the time, an unnamed beer conglomerate that would take over the world. We think we are funny, so we wanted to name it ourselves, and the image of several pieces joining to form one giant figure obviously made us think of Voltron. So, hence forth we have called AB InBev Beer Voltron.
As has been pointed out to us by several nerds (you know who you are), the moniker is maybe misguided, considering the cartoon Voltron was a defender of the universe and a force for good, and AB InBev has less admirable ambitions. “Yea, but still. It’s funny,” we said to ourselves.
But now that Victory Brewing Co. and Southern Tier Brewing Co. are forming a big-time craft beer alliance in order to defend the universe (or at least their separate business universes) from the forces of evil, do we need to rethink our entire dumb inside joke? Is this Beer Voltron now? Maybe Craft Voltron? I mean, just listen to this quote from Bill Covaleski, Founder and Brewmaster of Victory Brewing Co. It is god damn epic.
“The craft beer community is at its most critical moment since its inception as larger brewing corporations have bought into our grassroots movement, irrevocably changing the marketplace. Like-minded brewers such as Victory and Southern Tier can preserve our character, culture and products by banding together. Allied we can continue to innovate and best serve the audience who fueled our growth through their loyal thirst.”
So, is this now the real Beer Voltron? Ultimately, we say no because, and this is a crucial detail — the parent company for this alliance already has a name and it is way better: Artisanal Brewing Ventures (ABV).
So there you have it. Welcome, Artisanal Brewing Ventures. Now that we’ve settled that, let’s get to the actual news.
As the first major craft beer transaction of 2016, this artisanal venture presents a new model for craft beer partnerships by preserving brewery independence while pooling deep collective resources. This is similar to the Craft Brew Alliance model, with a key difference being (at least for “craft beer” definition purposes), Beer Voltron owns a minority stake in CBA. The new strategic framework between ABV, Victory and Southern Tier provides capital, security and vision for the future.
ABV, formed to unify independent craft brewers and distillers, embraces the collaborative craft spirit while administering crucial growth resources. Arlington Capital Advisors acted as exclusive financial consultant to Victory. Wells Fargo’s Beverage Finance group provided capital to support the investment and continued growth at ABV. The transaction is expected to close within the next 60 days.
Under the umbrella of ABV, Victory and Southern Tier will independently operate their breweries, commanding a joint capacity of over 800,000 bbls of potential annual production. This alliance creates one of the largest brewers in the Northeast and ranks within the top 15 craft brewing companies in the United States according to Brewers Association criteria with combined 2015 shipments of over 250,000 bbls. With a world-class roster of complementary beer brands and an even stronger standing in the marketplace, ABV will shepherd Victory and Southern Tier in collaborative sales and marketing efforts to strengthen, support and expand its distributor and retail partnerships. Victory and Southern Tier brands will become increasingly available to loyal and new consumers across their combined markets as a direct result of this union.
“Having gotten to know Phin, John and the whole management team, I am more excited than ever about the innovations that lie in our collective futures. One walk through their brewery and I knew that Southern Tier had the same belief in quality and excellence that has driven our culture for 20 years,” explained Ron Barchet, COO of Victory Brewing Company.
The Victory and Southern Tier leadership teams and employees will remain intact. Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet of Victory, who will become significant shareholders in ABV, will join the Artisanal Brewing Ventures’ Board of Directors. CEO John Coleman and CFO Bill Wild will lead ABV’s management team.
“This is exactly the kind of alliance we imagined when we created Artisanal Brewing Ventures in 2014,” said Phin DeMink, founder of Southern Tier Brewing and also a major shareholder in ABV. “This is a concept that was specifically designed by and for craft brewers, so we can focus on the things we’re best at while creating meaningful scale advantages. I’m proud to see this model validated and am grateful that my friends Ron and Bill have become our partners.”
“This is the ultimate craft beer collaboration. It is an honor to be associated with these pioneering entrepreneurs who have been contributing to the industry since craft’s early days,” said John Coleman, CEO of ABV. “I look forward to guiding these two truly great organizations forward as they collaborate, innovate and share best practices.”
Artisanal Brewing Ventures will be located in Charlotte and was formed by Phin and Sara DeMink and Ulysses Management LLC, a New York based family office, with the vision of creating a home for like-minded, best-in-class craft breweries in close partnership with their founders.