There are now more than a dozen craft brewers looking to sell all or parts of their businesses, according to a Reuters article that, citing unnamed sources, claims beer companies like Lagunitas, SweetWater Brewing, Ballast Point and even Dogfish Head are exploring transactions.
One of those companies, New York City’s Brooklyn Brewery, has consistently turned down investments from private equity firms for more than 20 years, founder Steve Hindy told the news service. But with plans to construct a new $150 million brewery on the horizon, Hindy, 66, is now considering the sale of a minority stake in an effort to raise capital for the project and the continued growth of a Brooklyn brand that sold more than 250,000 barrels in 2014.
“Anyone who does want to sell, should be selling right now,” Hindy told Reuters. “Valuations are out of this world. There are people swarming all of us wanting to give us money.”
Although Hindy said he hopes his company can remain independent, offers from institutional investors and strategic acquirers are pouring in.
“In a two-week period, I had 17 different private equity firms that called,” he said.
That kind of interest from the financial world is not uncommon; just ask Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione, who said Reuters incorrectly claimed was also exploring selling a minority stake.
Reached by phone, Calagione refuted the assertion that Dogfish was for sale but confirmed that his company has “been taking meetings for a decade.”
“There are lots of different meetings that we will take,” he told Brewbound. “It is pointless for people to keep putting conjecture out there on the direction Dogfish has decided to go. Frankly, Dogfish has not decided to go in any direction other than the off-centered direction we have been going in for 20 years.”
Calagione said any meeting his company has had – with private equity investors, strategic partners and other craft brewers – have been more focused on “understanding what is happening” in craft and the “different moves people are making.”
“We will continue to take meetings and talk to other brewers,” he said, noting that his company has refused to sit down with the “duopoly” (both Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors).
“This is part of what we do as a company that is interested in having the strongest future possible. I am militantly sure of Dogfish Head’s future as a family-controlled company, for at least the next decade,” he added.
Reached by email, Ballast Point CEO Jim Buechler declined to comment on the validity of Reuters’ claim that the brewery was considering a sale or a public offering.
“We’re always looking at options and you can’t believe everything you hear,” he wrote to Brewbound in an email.
Representatives from Brooklyn Brewery could not immediately be reached for comment.
The names of at least three other notable craft breweries potentially considering a sale have surfaced in recent weeks, including Lagunitas, SweetWater Brewing and more recently San Diego’s Saint Archer Brewing, which only launched in May 2013 but quickly scaled production to more than 17,000 barrels in 2014.
“Every brewery over 10,000 barrels is probably taking some sort of meeting or being asked to take meetings,” Calagione told Brewbound.
Merger & acquisition activity amongst top 50 craft breweries has accelerated considerably in the last two years and the list of prominent craft players that have sold all or parts of their companies is growing (the following is ranked according to 2014 production volumes):
- New Belgium Brewing (sold 100 percent to ESOP, 2013)
- Firestone Walker Brewing (sold to Duvel USA, 2015)
- Boulevard Brewing (sold to Duvel USA October 2013)
- Harpoon Brewery (sold 48 percent to ESOP, July 2014)
- Founders Brewing (sold 30 percent to Mahou San Miguel, 2014)
- Sweetwater Brewing (sold minority stake to TSG Consumer Partners, 2014)
- Abita Brewing (sold to private equity-backed Enjoy Beer LLC., 2015)
- Oskar Blues Brewery (sold stake to Fireman Capital, 2015)
- Full Sail Brewing (exited ESOP via sale to Encore Consumer Capital, 2015)
- Odell Brewing (sold 70 percent to management team and ESOP, 2014)
- Southern Tier Brewing (sold partial stake to Ulysees Management, 2014)
- Uinta Brewing (sold partial stake to Riverside Capital, 2014)
- Left Hand Brewing (sold majority to ESOP, 2015)
- Green Flash Brewing (acquired Alpine Brewing, 2014)
Others notable transactions:
- Long Trail Brewing (acquired by Fulham & Co., 2006)
- Anchor Brewing (sold to Griffin Group, 2010)
- North American Breweries (sold to Cerveceria Costa Rica, S.A., 2012)
- Vermont Hard Cider (sold to C&C Group, 2012)