On Wednesday, Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) announced the acquisition of Platform Beer Co., a craft brewery, cidery, and hard seltzer maker with locations in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, Ohio. It was one of the country’s fastest-growing craft brewing companies in 2017, and claims to have been the fastest-growing regional brewery that year. It will join ABI’s “Brewers Collective,” the craft division formerly known as The High End.
This is less random than it might seem. As craft beer consumers drink more beer-adjacent beverages (or, as ABI likes to call them, “innovations”) such as hard seltzer, canned cocktails, and other bubbly hybrids, big corporations are eager to keep apace with acquisitions and products that reflect these trends. Besides, ABI already owns Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer, and its craft brands are releasing more low-ABV options and spritzes. Platform provides a perfect, well, platform to flex these muscles.
There are benefits for Platform, too. As a result of the buyout, Platform “will be able to provide our staff with resources like robust healthcare benefits including parental leave, 401K and growth opportunities that we currently don’t have,” Justin Carson, Platform co-founder, said. When it’s put like that, it’s hard to condemn their decision.
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We’re in a crazy world, folks. Breweries are throwing anything tasty they can at the wall and seeing what sticks. I’d be thoroughly surprised if this, or something that looks a lot like it, doesn’t happen at other major beer conglomerates.
Craft Beer Production Up in 2019
Craft beer production volume among small and independent U.S. brewers increased 4 percent in the first half of 2019, the Brewers Association (BA) reports. The increase is on pace with growth in the “past few years,” Bart Watson, BA chief economist, said.
“The majority of growth continues to come from microbreweries, taprooms, and brewpubs, whereas the distribution landscape remains more challenging for regional craft brewers,” Watson said. “Overall demand for beers from small and independent brewers continues to increase, but at levels that make it difficult for all breweries to grow simultaneously.”
There are currently nearly 7,500 craft breweries operating in the U.S. This is almost 1,000 more than the same time last year. On top of that, more than 2,500 are estimated to be in planning.
It’s great to see growth in an industry I care deeply about. It’s also important to keep in mind that, although demand is growing, not every brewery gets to reap its benefits. This is particularly true for regional breweries struggling to stay afloat amidst their younger, trendier peers. In such a competitive marketplace, not everyone can succeed. If you care about a brewery and its beer, support it — with your time and dollars.
Odell Brewing Moves Into Wine
Odell Brewing, based in Fort Collins, Colo., announced it will take on another category: wine. The Odell Wine Project is expected to launch by late summer of next year and will be located adjacent to the original brewery, Porch Drinking reports. The new facility will produce red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines, and will package wine in kegs as well as cans to be distributed statewide.
“We’re taking the same approach when it comes to sourcing grapes as with our hop program, which is to say we’re scouring the country in search of the best growers and grapes, seeking out the most interesting and compelling flavor profiles,” Odell director of marketing Alex Kayne said.
Odell, founded in 1989, has shown uncharacteristic growth for a brewery of its size and stature. Currently the 23rd largest craft brewery by volume per the Brewers Association, Odell opened a second taproom in Denver’s River North Art District (RiNo) in May 2018. Last month, it announced plans to open a third taproom in Denver’s Sloan’s Lake neighborhood in 2020.
Porch Drinking’s Tristan Chan calls Odell’s locally focused growth a “winning recipe,” and I completely agree. As other top-50 brewers pull back distribution, close locations, or sell, Odell is celebrating 30 years of growth in its home state. It’s also taking risks, which is a bold move.