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Industry News (Issue 25)

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Lagunitas Buys Stake in Three Regional Companies

The evolution of Lagunitas, from outspoken independent craft stalwart to its current role as an international player under the Heineken umbrella, will continue as news arrives that the company has purchased stakes in three strategically located regional breweries: Charleston's Southend Brewery and Smokehouse, which will be rebranded as a Lagunitas brewpub, Santa Rosa, California-based Moonlight Brewing Co., a small Bay Area brewery verging on its 25th birthday, and Austin-based Independence Brewing.

Though details of the equity stakes weren't released, they will all be held under a new LLC titled Lagunitas U.S. Holdings, or LUSH. Though Heineken now owns 50 percent of Lagunitas, founder Tony Magee has stated that these actions came independently from within Lagunitas, the sixth-largest craft brewer of 2015.

In addition, the company has announced it will open spaces in Portland and San Diego to be used exclusively for nonprofit fundraising. Lagunitas will provide the space, staff and beer for free, as it does in its Chicago and Petaluma taprooms.

Though some will inevitably cry foul, Magee cites the changes as necessary evolution of the ever-changing marketplace, and acknowledged the acquisitions by saying that "craft brewing has never been about anything but making relationships." 

Magee went on to say that he plans to continue expansion into local breweries, and emphasizing that the deals are partnerships, rather than full-on takeovers.

Hilliard's, Prairie Artisan Ales Sold

Over the past week, two small but popular craft breweries were sold to similarly sized beer companies.

Oklahoma's Krebs Brewing, which produced around 8,000 barrels of its Choc Beer line last year, acquired Tulsa-based Prairie Artisan Ales, widely known for its Bomb! series. Unbeknownst to many, Krebs was already the contract brewer for Prairie, which put out around 2,000 barrels in 2015, and the deal has more or less been in place for the better part of a year.

“Since I already felt like the beers were a partnership it only made sense,” Krebs President Zach Prichard said of the acquisition. Prairie co-founder and head brewer Chase Healey will have "some involvement" in the future, though it seems the fate of Prairie is firmly in the hands of Healey and Krebs. According to a blog post by Prichard on Prairie's website, this could mean new beers and new locations in the future.

“It is a humbling move that shows Chase continues to trust us to innovate, make great beer, and share Prairie across the globe,” said Prichard.

In another West Coast sale, Seattle native Hilliard's Brewing has been sold to the smaller Odin Brewing, based out of Tukwila, Washington. Odin, which brewed around 3,000 barrels last year to Hilliard's 4,700 barrels, will move "certain tanks and equipment" to its new Tukwila taproom and brewery, and aim to sell the remainder of Hilliard's as an all-inclusive brewery package. 

Founder Ryan Hilliard will look to exit the craft beer business entirely. 

“I think the deal reached with Odin Brewing was a good one” Hilliard said in a press release. “It’s not often that deals like this come along, and when they do you have to be ready to move on them. I have enjoyed my time in the craft beer sector and am thrilled my namesake beer will live on in good hands.”

Odin Brewing Company was founded in 2009, and Hilliard's was founded in 2011.

Most of Stolen Sweetwater Brew Recovered

We'll start with the good news – Sweetwater Brewing Co. has recovered all but a few of the 3,272 cases (78,528 bottles) stolen from its brewery earlier this month, thanks to efforts by Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Major Theft Unit and the Southeastern Transportation Security Council. The bad news? They're all going to be destroyed.

"The product is being sent to Synergy Solutions Crisp County, a zero landfill, biofuel and waste recycling company," Sweetwater said in an announcement. Though it seems like a lamentable end for the reunited suds, to Sweetwater, it's a matter of maintaining quality. 

"We can no longer trust that that beer would be up to the quality standards that we as a brewery maintain, so unfortunately we have to destroy it all,” said Sweetwater marketing guru Steve Farace.

There's still no word on whether or not the culprits, who stole two trailers containing the beers have been identified...

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Photo Credits: All photos courtesy of breweries except for Sweetwater, courtesy of Beer Street Journal, and Yunhu Beer, courtesy of Ryan McFarland (http://www.zieak.com/)

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