Another regional brewer, who began as an alternative to mass-produced beer in company ownership, has now fully joined the ranks of mega foam manufacturers.
On Monday, Portland-based owner of Redhook Brewing – an icon The Seattle-based beer maker, who contributed to the fermentation of the craft brewing movement almost 40 years ago, agreed to buy from Anheuser-Busch InBev, the global one Beer Giant, known for mass brands like Budweiser, to be bought.
Dutch-based Busch InBev or AB-InBev is paying $ 220 million for shares it does not already own in the Craft Brew Alliance, which was formed in 2008 when Redhook merged with Widmer Brothers Brewing of Portland.
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Redbook was founded in 1981 in an old Ballard gearbox business by Gordon Bowker and Paul Shipman with the goal of "brewing Seattle a better beer" on the Red Hook Brewery website. The beer, first sold to Jake O'Shaughnessy in Queen Anne in 1982, was both celebrated and mocked for its banana-like sweetness.
But it was sold. Just as the American craft-brewing movement gained momentum (the first Great American Beer Festival in Boulder, Colorado, in 1982 attracted only 20 breweries and 35 beers), Redhook saw steady growth and a string of ever-larger facilities and tasting rooms, most recently the Redhook Brewlab at the Pike Motorworks Building on Capitol Hill.
However, as the writer and beer lover Eric Scigliano noted on these pages, Redhook's growth with his beginnings in the craft industry brought tensions.
In 1994 the brewery sold a quarter of its own to the then Anheuser-Busch with the aim of a wider distribution.
According to Scigliano, Shipman later came up with the plan to charge the sale: "I did not understand the consequences for the brand or the relationship with consumers and traders," he said.
The sale also had consequences for the image of the brewery. According to the Brewers Association, an independent brewing group, the term "crafting" can not be applied to a brewery where an industrial sire holds 25 percent or more.
But Redhook's burgeoning corporate identity would only intensify.
In 2008, Redhook merged with Widmer, another AB partner, and the merger led to the acquisition of Kona Brewing in 2010. In 2017, Craft Brew joined the Woodinville Brewery, where Redhook had been operating since 1994, and moved to Widmer's much larger facility in Portland. (The Woodinville website was sold in late 2017.)
The sale of Monday to AB-InBev was no surprise. In 2016, AB-InBev acquired a complicated option to acquire the rest of Craft Brew at a later date. In recent years, both companies had incentives to merge, as beer sales declined from the competition from alternatives such as White Claw.
The Craft Brew Alliance's fate has been particularly flat: since July, the stock price has fallen more than 30%, down 50%, to $ 7.33 at the close on Monday before the merger was announced – a cute deal for AB-InBev.
Whether beer drinkers find it sweet is another question.
At the Redhook Brewlab Monday night, employees held back the verdict until they learned more about the deal.
Ryan Ewnig, an expeditionman at the Brewlab's restaurant, said he understands concerns about Redhook's image as a small series. On the other hand, he said, by gaining such a large parent company, Redhook could have more opportunities to experiment with new beers.
documented or proven to be sold, "said Ewing. The sale "could mean more restraint, but also offers the opportunity to give them more freedom."