Ninkasi Brewing is in the process of realigning its wholesale network in the Pacific Northwest, the brewery announced this week, leaving two houses owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev (A-B) in order to partner up with a pair of independent distributors.
Per a statement from the company, Ninkasi has agreed to deals with Bigfoot Beverage Distributors and the Odom Corporation for coverage throughout downstate Oregon (the company’s home state) and western Washington, respectively.
Ninkasi CEO Nikos Ridge explained the move by saying that working with other independent businesses is more in line with his own company’s ethos.
“We are committed to being an independent and locally-owned craft brewery, and feel we will be better aligned long term with independent and locally-owned wholesalers,” he said.
To date, Western Beverage in Oregon and Anheuser-Busch Sales of Washington, two wholly-owned A-B distributorships, have sold the brand in the affected areas.
Recall that in 2012, A-B acquired Renton, Wash.-based K&L distributors, renaming it Anheuser-Busch Sales of Washington after the transaction.
And in 2008, A-B sold its 56 percent stake in Western Beverage to Major Brands, a Saint Louis, Mo.-based beer, wine and spirits wholesaler. Three years later, A-B InBev repurchased the entire distributorship. Ninkasi first signed with Western Beverages in 2010, Ridge said.
In addition to Ninkasi, the wholly-owned Anheuser-Busch Sales of Washington at one point sold well-known craft brands like 10 Barrel, Firestone, and Elysian. Last November, after A-B InBev purchased 10 Barrel brewing, Firestone began the process of exiting the branch. 10 Barrel products, which now fall under the A-B umbrella, are still being sold by the wholly-owned branch. Elysian beers, according to the brewery’s website, are also still being sold by the company.
“This is something that we have been thinking about since the transitions occurred,” Ridge told Brewbound. “The 10 Barrel purchase was the final piece that made us consider the option of a new wholesale network.”
The rights to distribute Ninkasi are being sold for an undisclosed amount, Ridge said.
Eric Forrest, co-president of Bigfoot, said the three parties — Bigfoot, Ninkasi, and Western — are still working out the details to ensure a fair transition.
“It’s been a very amicable discussion,” he said. “[Ninkasi and Western] have been partners for a long time and we certainly have been working through a dialogue to make that transition make sense.”
Official documents are still being prepared and the new partnerships are expected to be finalized by January 26 and February 9, in Oregon and Washington respectively.
Bigfoot and Odom have similar portfolios and both sell prominent craft brands like 21st Amendment, Boulevard Brewing and Oskar Blues, among others.
Southern California Expansion
Ninkasi also announced expanded coverage in Southern California, inking an agreement with L. Knife & Son’s Craft Beer Guild Distributing of California – Los Angeles (Craft LA)
Ninkasi’s flagship, seasonal and special release offerings will be available throughout San Fernando Valley, San Bernardino County, Riverside, Palmdale, Santa Clarita and Pomona beginning next week.
In 2013, Ninkasi launched distribution throughout San Diego county with Craft Beer Guild’s San Diego division. At the same time, the brewery also signed contracts with an alliance of five independent A-B InBev wholesalers — Straub Distributing Co., Ace Beverage Co., Mission Beverage Co., Triangle Distributing Co., and Heimark Distributing — for distribution in Orange County and Los Angeles basin areas.
Those arrangements have not changed, according to Ridge.
“Southern California can be a little bit tough in terms of putting a network together,” Ridge said. “Now with our Craft LA partnership, we are happy to announce that we have more coverage filling in the Los Angeles metro area and beyond.”
Ninkasi also works with L. Knife and Son on the east coast, where it sells a limited amount of beer through the company’s Craft Beer Guild division in New York.
Ninkasi sold 95,700 barrels of beer in 2014, missing its original production forecast of 115,000 barrels. The company also opened a second brewery capable of growing capacity to 250,000 barrels per year.