Press Clips: Jake Leinenkugel Heads to the White House; Distributor Consolidation in Wisconsin


Trump Taps Jake Leinenkugel as White House Advisor

The Trump administration has appointed Jake Leinenkugel to serve as a senior White House advisor to the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to The Chippewa Herald.

Leinenkugel, who served as president of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. for 25 years, retired in September 2014.

“Jake is a veteran; two of his children are veterans. He certainly knows first hand the challenges and opportunities men and women who leave the military face,” Dick Leinenkugel, Jake’s brother and Leinenkugel’s president, told the Herald. “This will allow him to impact the policies that will impact veterans.”

Jake Leinenkugel served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps before returning to Chippewa Falls to work at the family brewery, which the Miller Brewing Co. purchased in 1988.

Wisconsin Distributors to Purchase River City Distributing

Wisconsin Distributors, an Anheuser-Busch wholesaler with locations in Sun Prairie and Appleton, will purchase nearby River City Distributing, which also sells A-B products, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Monday.

The transaction, which is expected to close in March, will consolidate the two operations and could result in as many as 100 jobs being lost; Wisconsin Distributors plans to shutter River City’s Watertown facility, the outlet reported.

At least “21 sales positions, 20 service representatives and 15 part-time merchandiser jobs” will be eliminated as a result of the tie-up, the outlet noted.

As a result of the acquisition, Wisconsin Distributors — which sells primarily A-B owned craft products, according to its website — will gain access to River City’s more robust craft portfolio. Those offerings include products from famed Wisconsin craft brewery New Glarus as well as a variety of other brands, including Bear Republic, Epic Brewing, Coronado Brewing, New Holland, Abita, Shiner and Tallgrass, among others.


Washington Post Looks at Walmart’s Private Label Craft Beer

During last month’s Brewbound San Diego Session, Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson noted that Walmart’s private label brand, Trouble Brewing variety pack, had cracked Nielsen’s top new craft brands in 2016.

“We haven’t ever really seen private label play big in the beer business, or particularly in the craft business” Watson told the audience of industry professionals. “If we see more like that, that could pose a lot of challenges for brewers in the room.”

The Washington Post recently examined Walmart’s private label offerings and discovered that they’re being brewed by Rochester, New York-based Genesee Brewing — even though the beers’ labels lack any mention of Walmart or where they were brewed.

Meanwhile, Walmart jumped into the private label craft beer market as a way of creating an additional revenue stream.

Teresa Budd, a senior buyer for Walmart’s adult beverage team, told the Post the company saw opportunity in the surge of craft beer sales at its stores and put out feelers to suppliers across the country for someone to produce an IPA, a pale ale, an amber ale and a Belgian-style ale.

“Those were the top four best-selling craft styles at the time,” Budd told the news outlet.

Walmart then released the beers in six-packs and 12-can variety packs in early 2016. They’re now available in 3,000 stores throughout 45 states, according to the Post. And they’re cheap: 7.96 for a six-pack and $13.86 for the variety pack.


Ei8ht Ball Brewing Closes in Cincinnati

Cincinnati-based Ei8ht Ball Brewing will close in mid-February, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier.

“We’re brewing at capacity – 1,200 barrels – but at that level, we’re breaking even,” owner Ken Lewis told the Courier. “So even though we’ve doubled our sales, each of the three years we’ve been open and we’re making fantastic beer over there, the fact is we’ve never been more than a break-even situation.”

A new brewery, which will maintain the same space, is reportedly purchasing Ei8ht Ball’s assets. However, the yet-to-be-named brewery will not use the Ei8ht Ball brand identity.

Lewis will instead turn his focus to a distilling business. Meanwhile, Ei8ht Ball’s head brewer, Mitch Dougherty, is looking to start his own brewery.

“Our goal is to be one of the great small distilleries in the world,” Lewis told the outlet. “We want to provide another really exciting stop on the Bourbon Trail and work with all of Cincinnati to make sure it’s a great gateway to that. We’re not going to cede that territory to Louisville.”

Vending Machine Alcohol Sales Proposed in Connecticut

A bill in Connecticut would make it legal to buy and sell alcoholic beverages from vending machines located inside bars and restaurants already licensed to sell alcohol.

How would it work? WFSB Channel 3 reported the following:

“To make sure the alcohol is being served legally, the buyer would need a government issued ID that matches the name on his/her payment card. The seller not only needs to verify the buyer is of legal age, they need to record it in a database and make sure the payment card is also linked electronically.”

This, of course, is spooking liquor store owners.

“Yeah, I do think it would have a negative impact,” Dave Gajraj of MK’s Wine and Spirits in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, told the TV station. “That’s what America is about nowadays — on the go, quick. Using machines rather than dealing with humans.”


ZX Ventures Acquires Spain’s Cervezas La Virgen

A-B InBev, via its ZX Ventures “disruptive growth” division, has acquired Madrid’s Cervezas La Virgen, according to Just-Drinks.

Specific terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

In a statement provided to Just-Drinks, an A-B InBev spokesperson said the “partnership” would enable Cervezas La Virgen, which opened its doors in 2011, to access the larger company’s distribution network and “get their great beers to more people.”

The purchase marks the fourth international craft brewery acquisition for the ZX division. It made two purchases in 2016 — Belgium’s Brouwerij Bosteels and Italy’s Birra del Borgo — and, in late 2015, it acquired London’s Camden Town Brewery.

The ZX Ventures division also purchased the biggest homebrew supply company Northern Brewer last October and has investments in Owl’s Brew, which makes tea-based cocktail mixers and radlers, and Kombrewcha, a slightly alcoholic organic tea. It also owns a minority stake in PicoBrew Inc., an automatic all-grain homebrewing appliance.


Allagash Brewing Going Green(er)

The Portland Press Herald recently profiled Luke Truman, Allagash Brewing’s senior maintenance engineer. Truman is pushing the Portland, Maine, brewery in greener directions with his sustainability initiatives. Among the programs Truman is pushing in the New Year are LED lighting for the entire brewery and more collaboration on waste management.

“We also push the brewery to join forces with organizations like Ceres, Environment Maine and the Sierra Club, through PCAT (Portland Climate Action Team) work, to stand up for our sustainability values,” Truman told the paper. “Without the involvement of the entire employee base, we do not succeed in being a sustainable company.”

Read the full profile here.


Sierra Nevada Taps Tesla For Greener Beermaking

Sierra Nevada Brewing has installed a “1MWh Tesla Powerpack battery system,” that draws power from more than 10,000 existing solar panels and a two megawatt microturbine to offset its annual electricity use by 20 percent, according to The Verge.

The system can output up to 500 kilowatts of power, The Verge noted, allowing Sierra, the third largest U.S. craft brewery according to Brewers Association records, to “shave significant amounts off its peak usage during the beer-making process.”

Maui Brewing Company has also installed similar Tesla Powerpacks, the Silicon Valley automaker and energy storage company co-founded by billionaire genius Elon Musk, told The Verge.

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