Last Call: New Belgium Delays Asheville Opening; Michigan Brewers Expand Distribution


New Belgium Delays Opening of Asheville Brewery to March

New Belgium Brewing has once again pushed back the official public opening of its new brewery in Asheville, North Carolina.

Brewery spokeswoman Susanne Hackett told the Citizen-Times that New Belgium would not open its tasting room until March. Tours of the new facility will begin in April. The entire Asheville operation, now in its final construction phase, was scheduled to be open to the public this month.

New Belgium first adjusted the opening of the $140 million, 133,000 sq. ft. Asheville facility in 2013, putting construction on hold for eight months. At the time, the company just had added 70,000 barrels of capacity at its headquarters in Fort Collins, Colo., and believed Asheville would open in late 2015.

“We want to come screaming into the need for those barrels, rather than have so much overlap for extra capacity,” Kim Jordan, co-founder and then-CEO of New Belgium, told Brewbound at the time. “Having that eight month window allows us to fully utilize our capacity in Fort Collins.”

The deadline was moved again last October, shortly after New Belgium, now in its 25th year of business, began brewing at the facility for the first time.

Brewers at the new operation are currently running test batches of New Belgium flagship brands like Fat Tire Amber Ale, Ranger IPA, and 1554 Black Lager. Upon completion, the Asheville location will give New Belgium an additional 500,000 barrels in capacity.

Michigan Brewers Expand Footprint


In March, the Grand Rapids-based Founders Brewing will enter three new counties in its home state of Michigan. In an announcement posted to the company’s website, Founders said it had partnered with Four Season Beer Distribution to widen its reach in the Iron Mountain territory of the state’s Upper Peninsula.

Founders also reached a formal agreement with Kansas wholesalers, Central States Beverage, to expand its distribution into Franklin and Douglas counties.

Meanwhile, Short’s Brewery, making good on its previously announced plans to expand outside of Michigan for the first time, officially entered Pennsylvania this week.

On Wednesday, Short’s said it had reached an agreement with Bella Vista Beverage to for coverage throughout Eastern Pennsylvania. The brewery has launched in the new market with flagship beers Huma Lupa Licious IPA, Soft Parade Fruit Rye Ale, and the gluten-free Space Rock Pale Ale.


US Leads World in Hop Production

Farmers in the United States were responsible for 42 percent of the world’s hop production last year, surpassing Germany as the top hop-growing country. The U.S. produced about 80 million pounds of hops in 2015, compared to the 62 million pounds produced by Germany, according to a press release from the Hop Growers of America.

Severe droughts throughout continental Europe caused Germany to slip in the rankings, the association said. The organization also described the “unusually high temperatures” recorded in hop-farming regions last summer as “unprecedented,” a phenomenon that will likely not be repeated this year.

“While we are waiting to see the final snowpack situation in the spring, we know we are already far better off than last year, so we anticipate higher yields along with more acres going in to meet contract demands,” Ann George, the executive director of the Hop Growers of America said via a press statement.

The association said recent reports show water stores in Washington are currently at 109 percent of their normal levels, with the Yakima Basin at 117 percent of its normal level. According to the group, nearly 80 percent of the nation’s hops are grown in Washington state’s Yakima Valley.

Asahi to Buy Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime Brands


Anheuser-Busch InBev has entered into exclusive negotiations with Asahi Group Holdings over the sale of SABMiller-owned Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands, according to multiple outlets.

Per a New York Times report, the Japanese beer company submitted a binding offer of nearly $3 billion for the three brands brands. Recall that SABMiller purchased the smaller Meantime Brewery last May.

Asahi emerged as the top bidder after A-B InBev received submissions from strategic and private equity buyers alike over the last month. A-B InBev winnowed down its options throughout the process — ultimately rejecting bids from Spanish beer maker S.A. Damm, European firms PAI Partners, BC Partners and EQT, and American firms Bain Capital and KKR.

Asahi, which offered nearly $1 billion more than its rival bidders, appeared to be the likely choice from the outset; the company has reportedly been looking to expand its business in European markets as sales continue to soften in Japan.

“Asahi is getting more aggressive about overseas acquisitions,” Masashi Mori, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG in Tokyo, told Bloomberg. “You can’t be optimistic about the beer market in Japan seeing the trend that people, especially the young generations, are shifting away from beer.”

A-B InBev had been arranging the divestment in an effort to appease European Union regulators who are scrutinizing the company’s acquisition of SABMiller and concerned about a monopoly. While the company announced plans to voluntarily sell the brands last December, A-B InBev could face up to $3 billion in fines from E.U. antitrust regulators if it does not finalize the sale to Asahi before closing its deal with SABMiller.

“Asahi has been working to expand its overseas growth platform, mainly in Asia and Oceania, for some time,” the company said in an official statement. “Through this proposed acquisition, Asahi aims to expand its growth platform in Europe and become a global player with a distinct position.”

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2016.