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A Seismic Shift in Craft Beer

Stone Brewing Co. Acquired by Sapporo U.S.A.

A Seismic Shift in Craft Beer

Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, California is among the most recognizable names in craft brewing. Their evangelizing about hoppy beers and use of striking marketing materials (such as spicy beer names like Arrogant Bastard, Sublimely Self-Righteous and Ruination) have made them a favorite of craft beer fans for years.

On June 23, Stone announced that they were being acquired by Sapporo U.S.A., makers of the number one-selling Asian beer brand in the U.S.

This marks a seismic shift in the craft brewing landscape, as Stone – and especially its founder Greg Koch – has long been a loud voice in espousing the main values of craft brewing: independence, quality and community over all else.

Following on the heels of a successful lawsuit against Miller Coors due to the branding of the latter’s Keystone Light beer, Stone once again made major headlines with this sale.

Stone joins two other top 10 Brewers Association craft brewers in being sold to a parent company that is based in Japan: both New Belgium Brewing Co. and Bell’s Brewery were acquired by Lion – an Australian subsidiary of Japan-based Kirin Beer.

Beyond those, Sapporo U.S.A. previously acquired craft beer pioneer Anchor Brewing Co. in 2017. Both Anchor and Stone are widely regarded around the world as important innovators of hoppy beers and IPAs throughout the rise of craft beer and brewing.

“We approached Stone Brewing seeking a partner for our growth plans in the U.S, and we quickly recognized they were an ideal partner with bi-coastal brewing capacity, loyal fans, superb management, shared cultural values, and commitment to the highest quality standards,” said Kenny Sadai, Chairman of Sapporo U.S.A. in a statement. “This acquisition puts the resources and legacy of the largest Asian beer brand in America together with one of the most innovative and recognized craft beer brands in the world. It’s a perfect fusion of east meets west that is an ideal marriage for Sapporo’s long-term growth strategy in the U.S.”  

Despite the sale, Stone will retain its branding, workforce and management in what is hoped to be a rather seamless transition by both companies.

“This is the right next chapter for Stone Brewing,” said Greg Koch, Co-Founder & Executive Chairman of Stone Brewing, in a statement. “For 26 years, our amazing team has worked tirelessly to brew beers that have set trends and redefined expectations. To have the interest of a company like Sapporo in continuing the Stone story is a testament to the great beers we’ve created and will continue to create for our fans across the globe.

Koch has long been a major figure in the craft beer industry, and you can read an interview we did with him here.

“I am thrilled that we have the opportunity to join forces with Sapporo,” said Maria Stipp, CEO of Stone Brewing. “This unique partnership allows us to preserve the Stone legacy that our fans know and love and will add exponential opportunities for growth, from production to more investment in people, equipment, sales, and marketing.”  

Stone Distributing Co. is not part of the sale and will become an independent company under the same ownership and management.

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