The latest in a series of craft brewery acquisitions, San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Co. is being sold to Japan’s Sapporo Holdings Ltd. The sale follows recent acquisitions such as Constellation Brands’ $1 billion purchase of Ballast Point, Heineken’s purchase of a 50 percent stake in Lagunitas, and the purchase of Saint Archer by MillerCoors.
As the craft beer market gets saturated, these acquisitions have provided an opportunity for larger beer companies to utilize their impressive distribution channels to get their new craft beer brands into different markets. As Heineken’s acquisition of Lagunitas seems to target a strong European distribution channel, Sapporo’s purchase of Anchor Brewing will presumably allow for better distribution into Asian markets.
Regan Long, Co-Founder of Local Brewing Co. located in SOMA, commented on the Anchor acquisition, ”Regardless of who owns Anchor, they will always have their rich heritage and their top spot in history as the brand that built craft beer in the U.S.”
The impact on the local craft brewing market remains to be seen. Over the past five years, San Francisco has seen a boom in neighborhood breweries and taprooms. Despite the perception of a saturated market and expensive operating costs, the demand for high quality and innovative beer continues to drive growth. According to the Brewers Association, as of early 2017, California still ranked 23rd with 3.4 brewery licenses per 100,000 adults 21 and over, which paled in comparison to the links of Vermont (15.6), Oregon (10.3), and Colorado (9.9), suggesting that there is more room for growth still.
Addressing the growth and consolidation of the industry Long remarked, “We see ‘big beer’ cutting into craft sales and pricing – leveraging their scale while trying to look ‘craft.’ But this does not discourage us. We’re here to make beer for our customers, and their support tells us we’re on the right track.”
Whether the trend of big beer acquisitions of local craft breweries continues remains to be seen, but the momentum doesn’t appear to be slowing down.