Recent Changes in the U.S. Beer Industry

beerownership19

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This graphic shows the current ownership relations among U.S. beer brands as of December 2019. Since the previous version of this graphic (October 2017), a number of changes have occurred, including:

  • Constellation sold New Ballast to Kings & Convicts Brewing, December 2019
  • Kirin’s division Lion (Australia) acquired New Belgium, November 2019
  • AB InBev acquired remaining stake in Craft Brew Alliance (68.8% for $221M), November 2019
  • Mahou San Miguel increased stake in Founders to 90%, August 2019
  • AB InBev acquired Platform Beer Co., August 2019
  • Asahi acquired Carlton & United from AB InBev ($11.3B), July 2019
  • Dogfish Head merged with Boston Beer ($300M), May 2019
  • Mahou San Miguel increased its stake in Avery Brewing (from 30% to 70%), April 2019
  • Bridgeport Brewing (Gambrinus) closed March 2019
  • Sierra Nevada acquired Sufferfest, February 2019
  • Craft Brew Alliance acquired Cisco Brewers ($23M), Appalachian Mountain Brewery and Wynwood Brewing, October 2018
  • Constellation Brands acquired Four Corners, July 2018
  • Fireman Capital/CANarchy acquired Deep Ellum, June 2018 and Three Weavers, July 2018
  • Mendocino and Olde Saratoga (United Breweries) closed January 2018
  • Mahou San Miguel acquired partial equity in Avery Brewing, November 2017

Larger-scale craft brewers have struggled to increase sales in recent years. New Belgium’s response was to sell the firm to Asahi (headquartered in Japan), while Dogfish Head’s response was to merge with publicly traded Boston Beer. In addition, Constellation sold Ballast Point, for which it previously paid $1 Billion, to the much smaller Kings & Convicts Brewing (Highwood, Illinois). Constellation plans to retain recent acquisitions Four Corners (Texas) and Funky Buddha (Florida), both of which have experienced sales growth, in contrast to Ballast Point’s declining sales.

Anheuser-Busch InBev paused its acquisitions of craft brewers for several years after criticism of the buyout of Wicked Weed in 2017. In 2019, however, ABInBev acquired Platform Beer Company (Cleveland, Ohio), and purchased the remaining two-thirds stake in Craft Brew Alliance (which had itself acquired three additional breweries the previous year).

These trends make it difficult for consumers to know who they are supporting with their purchases–for more detail see “Craftwashing in the U.S. Beer Industry.” One interesting response is the Independent Craft seal, developed in 2017 by the Brewers Association for the United States. This seal can be placed on packaging as long as the brewery produces less than 6 million barrels of beer annually (currently less than 3% of U.S. sales) and is less than 25% owned by a non-craft brewer. It has since been adopted by more than 4,000 breweries. In Australia the Independent Brewers Association has developed a similar Certified Independent seal.

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