Anheuser-Busch InBev Buys Remaining Stake in Virtue Cider, Shuffles High End Team

Anheuser-Busch InBev, via its High End craft and import division, has acquired the remainder of Michigan’s Virtue Cider, the company announced today.

Greg Hall, the former brewmaster at Goose Island, which is also owned by A-B InBev, launched Virtue Cider with partner Stephen Schmakel and 31 investors in 2011 after his father, John Hall, sold Goose Island to the world’s largest beer company for $38.8 million.

Four years later, A-B purchased a majority stake in Virtue, at the time tapping into Goose Island’s packaging and warehousing capabilities in Chicago to help expand production and distribution of the cider brand.

As a result of the investment, A-B has “quadrupled its cider production, expanded distribution, and solidified a team of more than 30 passionate, creative cider experts,” High End president Felipe Szpigel wrote in an email to the company’s business partners.

Now that A-B owns 100 percent of the Michigan cidery, it can “fully integrate” the brand into its wholesaler network, Szpigel wrote. Virtue Cider will also move into the Goose Island offices in Chicago.

“Greg Hall and Steve Schmakel will continue to drive the vision and possibilities for Virtue,” Szpigel added, noting that they would both continue to serve as members of A-B’s “craft advisory board.”

In addition to acquiring the remainder of Virtue Cider, A-B also announced a number of executive moves within The High End division itself.

Ken Stout, who had been serving as the president and general manager of Goose Island, has been appointed to the newly created position of president of Goose Island International. In his new role, Stout will lead Goose Island’s expansion efforts abroad, while overseeing Goose Island’s existing brewpubs and taprooms in London, England, Toronto, Canada, Sao Paolo, Brazil, Monterrey, Mexico, Shanghai, China, and Seoul, South Korea.

Todd Ahsmann, who currently serves as the president of Blue Point Brewing Company, a New York craft brewery also owned by A-B InBev, will take over for Stout as president and general manager of Goose Island’s U.S. business. He will also assume the day-to-day responsibilities for running Virtue Cider. Prior to leading Blue Point, Ahsmann served as the director of consumer experience for Goose Island in Chicago.

Jenna Lally, who most recently served as the senior director of insights and innovation for The High End, will take over as the president and general manager for Blue Point.

The executive shuffle comes after A-B InBev announced a significant downsizing that impacted as many as 350 employees, or roughly 2 percent of its U.S. workforce. The “restructuring,” as the company called it, hit the High End division hardest and many overlapping sales jobs were eliminated.

Since its launch in August 2014, A-B InBev’s High End division has acquired 10 craft breweries, including 10 Barrel Brewing (Oregon), Blue Point Brewing (New York), Breckenridge Brewing (Colorado), Devils Backbone (Virginia), Elysian Brewing (Washington), Four Peaks Brewing (Arizona), Golden Road (California), Goose Island (Illinois), Karbach Brewing (Texas) and Wicked Weed (North Carolina). In addition to Virtue Cider, the High End also oversees the Shock Top, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Veza Sur Brewing (Miami) and Spiked Seltzer brands.

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