Small Brewers Caucus Asks DOJ to Review MegaBrew Deal
The United States Congressional Small Brewers Caucus issued a letter last week urging the Department of Justice to review the AB InBev’s impending purchase of SABMiller with more scrutiny than it had thus far.
“This deal is the largest global acquisition to date in the beer industry, and one of the largest acquisitions of a consumer goods company ever,” the letter read. “As such, we believe that it is appropriate for the Department’s review to be even more comprehensive than its review of ABI’s acquisition of Grupo Modelo in 2012 and 2013.”
Members of the bi-partisan caucus argued that the acquisition would give ABI an unfair advantage over small brewers in the states they represent. If the transaction goes through, ABI-owned brands would account for roughly 58 percent beer sales worldwide and effectively make ABI the top supplier for most wholesalers in the country.
“If ABI were to pressure independent distributors to abandon the distribution of non-ABI brands — including a significant number of craft brands — those brewers will have only one viable distribution option in those markets, further limiting many U.S. markets that are currently only served by two major beer distributors,” the letter read.
The caucus, originally founded by United States Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Greg Walden (R-OR) in 2007, was re-established in March of 2015 to represent the rights and interests of small brewers across the country. The group currently includes 200 members from 43 states.
“Small brewers, including Oregon’s 200-plus breweries, don’t simply provide beer; they provide consumers across the country greater variety and consumer choices against a market dominated by big beer companies like Miller or Busch,” Defazio said in a press statement on his website. “The proposed merger between ABI and SABMiller will impact that consumer choice and steamroll small brewers in the process, affecting supply, pricing, and manufacturing. I urge the Department of Justice to carefully review this proposed merger and fully evaluate the potentially disastrous effects of the partnerships of these two beer behemoths.”
In the statement, the caucus also expressed concerns that the acquisition would drive up prices and limit the availability of hops and barley — harming smaller brewers in the process.
The letter was sent two months after industry stakeholders, antitrust experts, and ABI executives were called to a hearing about the acquisition by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.
Perrin Brewing Enters First Out-of-State Market
A year after selling to Oskar Blues, Michigan’s Perrin Brewing Company will begin distributing outside its home state for the first time.
In a recent interview with the Grand Rapids Business Journal, Keith Klopcic, president of Perrin Brewing, said the five-year-old brewery would launch its brand throughout the state of Colorado, where Oskar Blues is headquartered, by the end of March.
Prior to Oskar Blues’ acquisition of Perrin, the draft-only brewery had placements in 700 accounts scattered across Michigan. Last July, however, the brewery installed a new canning line and began packaging its beer for the first time.
Perrin also expanded its capacity to 30,000 barrels last year, and will install three additional bright tanks this April.
Supported by the new market entries and additional capacity, Klopcic projected Perrin would produce 25,700 barrels in 2016 — up 84 percent from the 14,000 barrels the company brewed in 2015.
In the interview with GRBJ, Klopcic said the company may enter additional markets outside of Michigan this year as well.
Ace Cider up 30 Percent in 2015
California-based Ace Premium Craft Cider has completed the first stage of a $1 million expansion that will double its production capacity over the next three years. Earlier this month, new packaging equipment came online to help the cider company keep up with growing demand.
“Our new bottling capacity is a direct response to what consumers are telling us: that they want a healthier, gluten-free, lower-calorie, and more refreshing beverage,” Jeffrey House, founder of Ace Cider, told the North Bay Business Journal in a recent interview. “And for more and more of them, that beverage is Ace.”
Founded in 1993, Ace has since become the largest cider company on the West Coast — producing nearly 500,000 cases of cider in 2015. According to the NBBJ, the cider company reported a 30 percent increase in production last year and expected annual production to grow to 1 million cases by 2019.
In addition to expanding its bottling line, Ace will begin packaging select ciders in cans this spring.
The company’s double digit growth last year came in stark contrast to the otherwise softening sales of cider as a category. Market research firm Nielsen reported category volume sales had grown 71 percent in 2014, but showed nationwide cider sales had increased by just 11 percent in 2015.
BrewDog to Sell 20 Percent of U.S. Operations via Crowdfunding
As the Scottish craft brewery made headway on its new facility in the United States, BrewDog announced it would soon launch Equity for Punks USA — a crowdfunding/fan club hybrid aimed at supporting the company’s ventures in America.
In a statement on the brewery’s blog, BrewDog said it planned to sell up to 20 percent of its equity in BrewDog USA to individual fans and supporters starting in May of 2016.
The company is currently constructing a 100,000 sq. ft. facility featuring a taproom, visitor center, and 170-barrel brewhouse in Columbus, Ohio. With the new brewery, BrewDog also plans to open several brewpubs in cities across the United States. All told, the company anticipates the initial BrewDog USA investment will cost upwards of $25 million.
It’s a familiar play for the brewery. In Britain, BrewDog PLC launched its first Equity for Punks crowdsourced investment option in October of 2009, and nearly 1,400 people joined. At the time the brewery was just two years old. Since then, BrewDog has sporadically freed up shares of its company to grow its base of investors and support its endeavors throughout Europe.
In a press release on the brewery’s website last month, BrewDog reported nearly 37,000 people had joined Equity for Punks by January 2016. With an average investment of £525.55 ($742.82 USD) per participant, the company listed the total value of shares purchased to date at £13.5 million ($19 million USD).
Construction for the Columbus facility began last summer. The company announced that the steel framing and roof for the warehouse had been completed, and German brewing equipment company, Esau & Hueber had already flown in to install the new 200 hectoliter (170-barrel) brewhouse.
The new brewery is expected to open by in August of this year.