May M&A: Small Craft Breweries Across US Consolidate as Competition Stiffens

A number of small brewery transactions have emerged this month, as craft breweries across the country fight to remain competitive in an increasingly more crowded industry.

In Wisconsin, the nearly seven-year-old Wisconsin Brewing Company announced that it would acquire Lake Louie Brewery in Arena after conversations about a tie-up began in 2017.

“We were super excited to explore this idea and bring Tom and his team into our family,” Wisconsin Brewing CEO Carl Nolen said via a press release. “This new collaboration will allow us to utilize our scale to expand and enhance the Lake Louie portfolio.”

Specific financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Wisconsin Brewing said it would buy Lake Louie’s assets and brands, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Tom Potter, who founded Lake Louie Brewery in 1999, will maintain ownership of the brewing facility in Arena, which will “continue to operate and be used for the innovation of new brands under the Lake Louie banner and special projects for Wisconsin Brewing,” according to the release.

The Wisconsin State Journal also reported that Wisconsin Brewing would embark on a $6 million expansion project later this year that would increase production capacity to 80,000 barrels annually and include the addition of a canning line.

As part of the expansion, Wisconsin Brewing also plans to begin producing non-alcoholic beverages for various contract partners, the outlet noted.

According to the Brewers Association, Wisconsin Brewing produced more than 18,000 barrels of beer in 2017, the last year for which data was available. Meanwhile, Lake Louie Brewing made about 4,000 barrels of beer that year.

Wisconsin Brewing expects the transaction to be completed by July 1.

Elsewhere in the Midwest, Indianapolis’ New Day Craft, which makes mead and hard cider, has sold to nearby Fountain Square Brew Co.

Terms of the deal, which the two companies characterized as a merger, were not disclosed.

“We have been pouring New Day for years,” Fountain Square general manager Luke Nelson said via a press release. “Their products satisfy our sophisticated, non-beer drinkers.”

Fountain Square CEO Brad Smith will lead the combined companies, the release noted.

For their part, New Day Craft CEO Tia Agnew and COO Brett Canaday will “begin new careers after a transition period of undefined duration.”

“When Brett and I started this journey 15 years ago, our vision was to make mead of excellent quality that was approachable to a wide audience,” Agnew said via the release. “Staying true to that ethos, New Day Craft is now a leader in our industry, with a dedicated following and a rapidly increasing footprint. We couldn’t be more excited to be combining forces with Fountain Square Brewery to take the New Day brand to its next level of achievement.”

The two companies’ brands are currently sold in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and New York City.

Meanwhile, in the southeast, Marietta, Georgia’s Glover Park Brewery announced Kevin McNerney as a new partner.

McNerney, who co-founded Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing with Freddy Bensch in 1997, departed the country’s 15th largest craft brewery in 2008.

After consulting for other craft breweries in the Southeast, McNerney helped design Glover Park Brewery, which was founded in 2018 by Sam Rambo and Hank DuPre. He had served as its brewmaster prior to being named as a partner last week.

“Glover Park is a brewery that has been thoughtfully designed by individuals who have the drive and work ethic to deliver a fun comfortable atmosphere to enjoy world-class beer,” McNerney said via a press release. “It’s the perfect place for me to continue to deliver the best handcrafted beer I can to my loyal following that has supported me for 22 years.”

Two other small deals were also announced this month.

In the Pacific Northwest, Hidden Mother Brewing, which is based in Liberty Lake, Washington, but will relocate to Spokane, plans to merge with Idaho’s Selkirk Abbey to form Devotion Brewing.

According to the Inlander, the two brands will continue to exist, but the Devotion Brewing partner company will be jointly held by Hidden Mother founder Mike DeTar, Selkirk Abbey owner Jeff Whitman and other partners.

The two entrepreneurs expect the deal to close by June 1.

Selkirk Abbey, which opened in 2012, made about 2,000 barrels of beer in 2017, according to the BA. Hidden Mother, meanwhile, opened its doors about one year ago and has produced a limited amount of beer.

Also, in Indiana, St. John Malt Brothers, a five-year-old brewery, acquired the 95ate5 brewpub for an undisclosed amount.

The two businesses are located in the same industrial park, according to The Times of Northwest Indiana.

Speaking to The Times, St. John Malt Brothers president Jim Estry called the deal a “true merger.”

“This isn’t like the Boston Beer Co. and Dogfish Head,” he said.

According to the outlet, St. John Malt Brothers will rebrand the 95ate5 location, and operate both outposts until at least July. The company plans to eventually combine operations.

Meanwhile, 95ate5 owners Jack and Bev Mix will retire, while son Bill Mix will serve as general manager of Malt Brothers.

“We are making some of the best craft beer in Northwest Indiana,” Estry told the outlet. “3 Floyds is obviously phenomenal, and there’s a couple of breweries making very, very good beer, but I would match our beer with any of them.”

St. John Malt Brothers made 623 barrels of beer in 2017, according to BA records.

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