There has been quite an uproar in the craft beer world lately. It seems craft breweries are being bought up left and right by Big Beer lately. All this consolidation and fervor culminated in a Budweiser Super Bowl ad mocking the craft brewing industry. This led to responses from craft beer. Basically, there’s been a lot of turmoil in craft beer lately because everyone is upset that Big Beer is butting in on Craft Beer.
Well, what would you say if one of craft beer’s own was looking to buy up smaller breweries? According to the Denver Post, Oskar Blues of Colorado is looking to buy up smaller breweries and consolidate the craft beer industry within craft beer. According to an Oskar Blues’ spokesman
“Right now, we’re looking at potentially buying some smaller breweries that are going through some of the growing pains we have been able to persevere through.”
Melis noted that craft beer is a relatively young industry, is going through a boom, “and there is not a ton of super-experienced people out there.” An acquisition makes sense, he said, because Longmont-based Oskar Blues has the personnel who have navigated challenging industry waters during those boom years. He suggested that purchasing another brewery or breweries would help Oskar Blues, as well, strengthen its position in an era of greater competition.
It seems Oskar Blues has become much more than a brewery. They are being recognized for their excellent branding and entrepreneurial spirit, as much as for their quality craft beer.
Advertising Age called Oskar Blues one of the hottest brands of the year in 2010; Beverage World Magazine bestowed the honor of craft brewery of the year in 2013.
All this, of course, makes Oskar Blues attractive to a corporate suitor.
Anheuser-Busch InBev has been on an independent craft brewery buying spree in the last year, purchasing Blue Point Brewing in Patchogue, N.Y., 10 Barrel Brewing in Bend, Ore. and announcing the acquisition of Elysian Brewing in Seattle.
With all that success, Oskar Blues has become an attractive target by Big Beer and has been for quite some time. Will they sell to a larger company?
Melis said Oskar Blues has been approached to sell “since the early days” and more recently, which he said is part of the business.
Melis said Oskar Blues has no plans to sell out to AB or MillerCoors. He offered the qualifier of “never say never” — wise people do — but made clear that selling out is not under consideration.
But consolidation isn’t new to the craft brewing industry.
Although Anheuser-Busch’s moves have generated much attention and consternation, craft brewing has a history of consolidation.
In Colorado, Longmont-based Left Hand Brewing acquired Tabernash Brewing way back in 1998. In 2011, Denver craft brewing pioneers Wynkoop Brewing and Breckenridge Brewing struck a joint venture, pooling their physical assets and agreeing to split revenues for existing parts of the two companies equally.
The question is whether the rapidly changing beer industry landscape will trigger more consolidation within craft beer — and whether Colorado’s second largest craft brewery might make a bold move of its own.
Not only is consolidation apart of craft beer history, isn’t this just the way business works? Maybe craft beer enthusiasts want to think their passion is above the fray, as enthusiasts of all interests hope.