Molson Coors Acquires London’s Hop Stuff Brewery

Molson Coors has acquired financially troubled London craft brewery Hop Stuff.

Terms of the transaction, which was announced Friday, were not disclosed.

In a blog post, Hop Stuff founder James Yeomans said the company had been facing “financial difficulties in the recent months” that forced it to enter “administration,” a process similar to bankruptcy in the U.S., on July 12.

“I’m pleased to say that we were able to secure an asset sale to Molson Coors Brewing Company as part of a pre-packaged administration process, which includes our brewery, brand and taprooms and the transfer of all staff to Molson Coors,” he wrote. “Due to our financial position, this was the best possible option for our people and the future of our beers, or we faced the whole business going into liquidation.”

In a press release, Molson Coors marketing director Jim Shearer said the purchase of Hop Stuff helps to further premiumize the company’s portfolio.

“When we found out the company was under threat, after spending time with James and tasting these exceptional beers, we felt Hop Stuff’s beers and the ethos James had started were too good not to exist,” he said. “Our track record with Sharp’s, Franciscan Well, and most recently Aspall Cyder, is testament to the care we take with these craft brands.”

Nevertheless, Yeomans said “a full sale” of the company was “commercially unviable.” As such, Hop Stuff’s investors will not be receiving a return on their investment.

“I am so sorry,” Yeomans wrote. “I wanted so much to turn the passion you have for Hop Stuff Brewery into a financial win for you and I am absolutely gutted that hasn’t happened.”

Hop Stuff was founded in 2013 with the support of 72 investors, according to the company’s website. The number of investors grew to 1,300 as the company conducted three “successful” crowdfunding rounds. In its third crowdfunding round, the company raised around $1 million (£800,000) in February 2018, taking its total investments received through crowdfunding to around $1.8 million (£1.5 million), according to The Morning Advertiser.

Twitter reaction to the sale has been largely negative, pointing to unpaid workers and mismanagement.

In his blog post announcing the sale, Yeomans said he remains “committed to protecting the ethos” of Hop Stuff is “confident” that Molson Coors shares its vision.

“In Molson Coors we’ve found a partner who believes wholeheartedly that craft beer should be accessible, inclusive and of exceptionally high and consistent quality,” he wrote. “With their support and guidance, we are going to be able to start brewing again and be able to supply our customers in London. Hop Stuff beers won’t disappear.”

Although Molson Coors has remained active in international M&A, the company has been relatively quiet in the U.S. since its summer 2016 spree of acquisitions, picking up Texas’ Revolver Brewing, Oregon’s Hop Valley and Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Company to go along with the 2015 purchase of San Diego’s Saint Archer.

Last August, Molson Coors’ Canadian business division formed a joint venture with Quebec cannabis company HEXO to make non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused drinks for the Canadian market.

In January 2018, the company acquired 290-year-old U.K. cider brand Aspall Cyder for a reported $54 million. And in November 2017, Molson Coors acquired Quebec-based craft brewery Trou du Diable.

Molson Coors’ acquisition of Hop Stuff follows a series of craft transactions in the United Kingdom in recent years. This past April, Kirin-owned Lion Pty Limited acquired Magic Rock Brewing Company in Huddersfield. In 2018, the Australia-headquartered company acquired Fourpure Brewing Co. in London.

Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s innovation and growth division, ZX Ventures, has also been an active acquirer in the U.K. Earlier this month, U.K.-based craft beer retailer Beer Hawk, which ZX bought in 2016, purchased the BeerBods beer subscription service. ZX’s portfolio of international beer companies also includes London’s Camden Town Brewery, which it acquired in December 2015.

This past January, Tokyo-based Asahi Group Holdings announced a $327 million deal for the beer and cider business of London-based Fuller Smith & Turner.

In June 2018, Heineken International B.V. acquired a minority stake in Beavertown Brewery. The company had purchased a minority stake in Brixton Brewery in November 2017.

Other recent U.K. transactions include Pernod Ricard-owned Irish Distillers’ acquisition of Irish craft brewery Eight Degrees Brewing Company in 2018, and New York’s Brooklyn Brewery and Carlsberg acquisition of London Fields Brewery for a reported $5.2 million in 2017.

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