Last Call: Another Brewery Files for Bankruptcy; Stone Seeks to Dismiss MillerCoors’ Counterclaims

Rivertowne Brewing Files for Bankruptcy Protection

Pennsylvania-based Rivertowne Brewing has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and owes creditors more than $637,000, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Rivertowne, which operates four brewpubs in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the NHL’s Penguins ($125,000) and MLB’s Pirates ($271,500), TribLive.com also reported. Other creditors, according to media reports, include Key Logistics ($170,920), Sysco, Gordon Food Service, S&T Bank ($103,000) and Huntington National Bank. The company also owes $77,700 in back rent for its North Shore brewpub.

Rivertowne founder and CEO Christian Fyke told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the company will continue to operate and its 140 employees will be paid as the company reorganizes.

Stone Brewing Asks Court to Dismiss MillerCoors’ Counterclaims

The latest development in Stone Brewing’s trademark fight with MillerCoors and its Keystone brand emerged earlier this week. Rather than answer MillerCoors’ counterclaims, Stone Brewing has asked the court to dismiss the “superfluous and otherwise infirm counterclaims.”

In the May 8 filing, which was first posted by TrademarkYourBeer.com, Stone Brewing calls MillerCoors’ response “a blunderbuss attempt to turn supposed affirmative defenses into mirror-image counterclaims that needlessly multiply these proceedings and fail to satisfy the Declaratory Judgement Act.”

Stone argues that MillerCoors’ first three counterclaims should be thrown out because “they add nothing to the case and waste judicial and party resources on multiplied proceedings.” Meanwhile, the San Diego-based craft brewery calls MillerCoors’ attempt to receive exclusive common law rights to “Stone,” “decades stale, i.e., just like Defendant’s marketing of ‘smooth’ light beer.”

In February, Stone Brewing filed a lawsuit against MillerCoors alleging that its rebranded packaging and advertisements for the Keystone brand infringed upon its “Stone” trademark. Read more here, here, here and here.

Tree House Announces Expansion Plan

Less than a year after opening its new production facility and taproom, Massachusetts-based Tree House Brewing Company is poised to expand.

In a blog post on the brewery’s website, Tree House co-founder Nate Lanier wrote that the company has grown from selling 270 barrels of beer directly to consumers each week to about 1,000 barrels.

Lanier admitted that while they got “many things” right with the new facility, they got “some things very wrong.” And Tree House is looking to fix that by constructing a 16,000 sq. ft. expansion to its retail shop and brewery, pending local approval.

The company also plans to install a second bar, about twice the size of the existing one, in order to serve customers inside and out of the brewery in the spring, summer and fall.

The plan also calls for a new 2,000 sq. ft. indoor mezzanine inside the brewery, a new to-go sale area that’s twice the size of its existing space and a new private event area.

“This project will allow our new space to breathe, making for a more relaxed and enjoyable environment for everyone who visits,” Lanier wrote. “[T]he experience at Tree House is better than ever. . . But it is far from perfect. We won’t stop until it is. We promise to continue reinvesting to make it better, day by day, and year by year, far into the future. This new project reaffirms our goal: To brew the best beer we can and serve it in the most comfortable and friendly environment possible.”

MillerCoors Announces Terrapin Leadership Changes

After nearly two years as president of MillerCoors-owned Terrapin Beer Beer Co., Frank Skorzewski will retire effective August 31. Skorzewski will be replaced by Dustin Watts, who currently serves as Terrapin’s vice president of marketing and sales, as of September 1.

“As Terrapin’s vice president of marketing and sales since January 2006, Dustin has been one of the most prominent faces of the brewery with distributors, retailers and beer drinkers,” Tenth and Blake president Pete Marino wrote in a memo to employees. “He joined the brewery in late 2003 and has been a driving force in building the brand, growing the business and developing the team and culture that have been so critical in making Terrapin one of the most successful craft brands across the Southeast and beyond.”

Marino noted that Terrapin sales are up 25 percent through the end of March. He added that the brand “continues to gain momentum” in Wisconsin and Michigan as well as the Atlanta market due to its brewpub at SunTrust Park, the home of Major League Baseball’s Braves.

BrewDog Names New CFO

BrewDog has appointed former Coca-Cola executive Jason Marshall as the Scottish craft beer maker’s first chief financial officer. In a press release, BrewDog said Marshall, who last served as vice president for supply chain with Coca-Cola European Partners, will oversee its finances as the company “prepares for a period of accelerated domestic and international growth in 2018 and beyond.”

“Jason’s passion, vision and tenacity is what most excites me about this addition to the BrewDog family,” co-founder James Watts said, via a press release. “His experience in working in a complex and multinational business is exactly what we need at this juncture in the BrewDog journey.”

Marshall added: “I’ve long been impressed by the contagious passion of James and Martin [Dickie] and the company’s socially conscious values, especially its Unicorn Fund. I look forward to joining a world-class team and contributing to the next chapter of BrewDog and the global craft beer movement.”

Lagunitas Affiliate Purchases Miami Warehouse

Lagunitas Brewing Company, which is owned by Heineken, has purchased a 22,000 sq. ft. warehouse in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami for $10.53 million, according to the Real Deal.

The acquisition, made via Lagunitas affiliate Cerveceria La Tropical USA, is the latest beer-focused investment in the Wynwood neighborhood. J. Wakefield Brewing, Craft Brew Alliance partner brand Wynwood Brewing Company, Boston Beer-owned Concrete Beach and Anheuser-Busch’s Veza Sur also operate breweries in the area.

Jester King Buys 107 Acres of Land

Austin, Texas-based Jester King announced yesterday that it has purchased the remaining 107 acres of Ceres Park Ranch, where the brewery has been located since 2010.

“We’re very happy that this land will not fall prey to encroaching residential development,” the company said in a blog post, adding that it now owns 165 acres of land. “Green space is becoming increasingly fleeting on the outskirts of Austin, and aside from agriculture, our land will not be developed. It will remain a beautiful place for people to enjoy long into the future.

Ballast Point Chicago Outpost to Open May 15

San Diego-headquartered Ballast Point has set a May 15 opening date for its satellite restaurant and taproom in Chicago’s Fulton Market, the company said via a press release.

The Constellation Brands-owned craft brewery is slated to pour more than 40 beers on tap at the 12,000 sq. ft. brewpub, including sours, stouts and research-and-development beers from its pilot system.

“We are humbled and excited to bring our Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen to Chicago,” Ballast Point president Marty Birkel said via the release. “With its impressive craft and culinary scenes, it seemed natural to build a brewpub in Chicago’s Fulton Market District and we look forward to sharing our love of craft beer with old and new Ballast Point fans alike.”

NBWA Beer Purchasers’ Index Expands

After two consecutive months of contraction, the National Beer Wholesalers Association’s (NBWA) Beer Purchasers’ Index — which helps explain U.S. beer distributors’ monthly purchasing behavior — expanded with a reading of 54 in April. However, the reading was four points below April 2017 levels.

According to the NBWA, “a reading greater than 50 indicates the segment is expanding,” while “a reading below 50 indicates the segment is contracting.”

After hitting a “record low” reading of 45 in March, the craft index rebounded to expansion with an April reading of 52.

“While beer overall is slightly down from this time last year, it is still showing some expansion,” NBWA Chief Economist Lester Jones said, via a press release.

Imports indexed above 60 for the sixth consecutive month, with an April reading of 69. Meanwhile, Jones called the flavored malt and progressive adult beverages segment “the real standout” with a 60 reading, up from 51 last year.

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