U.S. BREWERIES HIT 4,144, AN ALL-TIME HIGH
Craft beer’s heady growth spurt was showing no signs of flattening at the start of the year. Hundreds of new entrants fired up kettles, and scores of established players expanded operations.
The raging movement toward small, independently produced brews drove the number ofU.S. breweries to 4,144 in early December, an all-time high.
Amid the time of great expansion was a billowing wave of change.
The beer behemoths and venture capitalists opened their checkbooks. The year brought a billion-dollar buyout of Ballast Point, Fireman Capital quietly staking a claim in Longmont’s Oskar Blues and Anheuser-Busch InBev buying eight craft breweries— including Littleton-based Breckenridge Brewery.
“It’s too early in the process to see how successful it’s going to be,” said Kyle R. Leingang, an attorney who specializes in the craft beer industry and acquisitions at Dorsey& Whitney LLP in Southern California. “You’ve already seen amore basic shift in how a lot of craft beer drinkers are thinking about the definition of craft beer.
“Does craft beer even mean what it meant at the end of last year?”
With the craze for craft on one end, the year brought the long-anticipated announcement that AB InBev would pair up with rival SABMiller. The gargantuan, $100 billion-plus deal is a global-focused play for the two largest brewers, but it has equallymassive implications locally.
Denver-based Molson Coors could grow significantly as it aims to acquire the remaining portion of theU.S.-based MillerCoors joint venture it did not already own. The AB InBev-SABMiller combination also has raised concerns and regulatory inquiries about howthe deal would give the industry leaders a stranglehold on distribution.