A pioneer of the Vermont craft beer industry will no longer have a physical presence in the state.
Magic Hat Brewing, now owned by Rochester, New York-based FIFCO USA, will vacate its brewery and performing arts center, called “The Artifactory,” in South Burlington, Vermont, next month, according to a press release.
Burlington, Vermont-based Zero Gravity Craft Brewery has agreed to purchase Magic Hat’s brewing equipment and take over its lease, pending federal permitting approval. Financial details of the equipment sale were not disclosed.
“Our ties to Burlington made this decision very difficult,” FIFCO USA CEO Rich Andrews said in the release. “In the end, this was the best long term opportunity for both us and our friends at Zero Gravity.”
Production of Magic Hat will shift to FIFCO USA’s Genesee Brew House in Rochester, New York, where some packages of flagship #9 and other Magic Hat offerings are already being produced. The production facility underwent a $50 million renovation in 2018.
“With the capabilities and capacity of our new brewery and the evolution of Magic Hat, moving the production to Rochester provided the best long-term opportunity,” Andrews said. “We have been brewing a portion of Magic Hat in Rochester for nearly a decade. Having one brewery with new equipment, creates consistent, high quality beer that our Magic Hat consumers have come to expect.”
FIFCO USA laid off all 43 Vermont-based Magic Hat employees, who will each receive a severance from the company. Those workers will also be considered for open positions with Zero Gravity, according to the release.
Magic Hat was founded by Alan Newman and Bob Johnson in 1994. The company acquired Seattle-based Pyramid Brewing in 2008, and North American Breweries acquired the rollup — which at the time included Magic Hat, Pyramid and Portland, Oregon-based MacTarnahan’s — in 2010.
FIFCO USA, the former North American Breweries (NAB), did not report volumes for Magic Hat in either 2018 or 2019. In 2017, the last year in which Magic Hat’s volume was reported to the Brewers Association (BA), the craft brand produced 75,000 barrels of beer, down from 181,000 barrels in 2014.
Magic Hat’s exit from Vermont comes a month after FIFCO USA permanently closed Pyramid Brewing Co.’s Alehouse in Seattle after more than three decades in business.
In November 2018, FIFCO USA closed its Portland Brewing Company taproom after more than 30 years.
Zero Gravity, which was founded in 2004, will retain its original brewpub at American Flatbread in downtown Burlington and its taproom and brewery on Pine Street. The company’s volume increased 33%, to 20,000 barrels, in 2019, according to the BA.
“As we found ourselves needing more production space, this felt like the most organic and elegant way to expand,” Zero Gravity CEO Matt Wilson said in a separate press release. “We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to increase our brewing capacity while staying rooted in the same community where we began.”