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Posts Tagged big beer

Stone Brewing files lawsuit against MillerCoors over Keystone branding

Feb 12

Last week, Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch began posting a series of cryptic Tweets as a lead-up to a “scrap” that would go down at noon today. Having worked for Stone for numerous years and coordinated on various marketing campaigns with Koch, this had all the earmarks of such an initiative. They are interwoven into the DNA of the 22-year-old, Escondido brewing company, which rose to prominence in the late-nineties and early-thousands thanks as much to its extremely hoppy beers (especially for the marketplace at the time) as Koch’s adventurous marketing, most notably the taunting verbiage on the back of bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale. But a video and press release that went out earlier today attest that this melee—a lawsuit filed against MillerCoors over the branding of its Keystone line of beers—is quite serious.

The suit alleges that multi-national “Big Beer” conglomerate MillerCoors is purposely trying to create confusion in the marketplace with a recent rebranding of the products in Keystone’s portfolio. A prime example are 12-ounce cans, which break the word “Keystone” into two words on separate lines that read “Key” and “Stone” (which appear in all capital letters). When rotated a certain way, all that is visible is the word Stone. Furthermore, on 30-pack cases, the word “Keystone” appears, but it is depicted so that only the word “Stone” is shown on a can (which is rotated in the manner noted above) and the “Key” merely precedes it. From there, other terms like “Light” are tacked on, again, independent of the can.

“Are we doing this for publicity…no. We figured you ought to know the facts,” says Koch in his video message to consumers (which can be viewed in its entirety by clicking here). “The point is, there’s an intentional obfuscation that they are attempting to run, confusing people with our brand.”

“Keystone’s rebranding is no accident,” adds Stone CEO Dominic Engels. “MillerCoors tried to register our name years ago and was rejected.” He also notes that Keystone’s social-media posts have “almost universally dropped the ‘Key.’”

As an observer employed in a marketing capacity within the brewing industry, I will say that the first time I saw Keystone’s rebrand, I wondered how it would be received by my previous employer. It struck me the same way as it did Koch, as an attempt to piggyback off a legitimate craft brand, albeit through one of the most blatant and sophomoric attempts at subterfuge I’ve seen by a multi-billion-dollar corporation.

In the video, Koch switches from fact- and opinion-driven summation of the lawsuit filing to his trademark, dryly-comedic bashing of Big Beer. He insults the “flavorless and watery” nature of Keystone products and performs multiple spit takes with the beer. While a court of public opinion will not provide judgment on this case (in which Stone is being represented by BraunHagey & Borden LLP), in this day and age, there is no way that craft-beer consumers and the population at large won’t make up their own minds about the merits of the suit. It would seem Koch’s delivery leaves the door open for doubters who would say that, while there is substantial cause for taking MillerCoors to court, Stone is attempting to benefit from as much publicity as possible in the process.

Stone has set up a social-media hashtag—#TrueStonevsKeystone—for people to follow along, primarily with Koch. Of course, this case may never make it to court. As Koch says when addressing MillerCoors in his video: “You can end all of this right here and now by one simple move that reinforces your brand that you’ve built. Put the ‘Key’ back in ‘Keystone.’ Stop using Stone as a stand-alone word. It’s ours.”

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A Quick How-To on Supporting Local Breweries

May 16

Recently, I was interviewed about the state of the local brewing industry in the wake of Big Beer interests—AB InBev-owned 10 Barrel, MillerCoors-owned Saint Archer, and Constellation Brands-owned Ballast Point Brewing—elbowing their way into the San Diego market. In answering questions, I echoed the primary lament of employees at independent breweries throughout our county, which is the concern that people who want to support local, authentically “craft” breweries will think they are doing so by purchasing beers from the aforementioned companies (as well as other acquired brands including Wicked Weed Brewing, Elysian Brewing and Goose Island as well as “faux craft” brands such as Blue Moon and Shock-Top) due to subterfuge and falsehoods conveyed via Big Beer marketing campaigns. It is a consumer’s right to choose. If they make an informed decision to purchase ales and lagers from Big Beer because they aren’t concerned about buying and drinking local, that is their prerogative. But for people who do care and go out of their way to buy local, San Diego breweries simply want those folks to get what they they think they are paying for and feel comforted in the knowledge that they are, in fact, supporting San Diego breweries.

At this point, I was asked what consumers can do to ensure they aren’t fooled. It’s a great question and, being so entrenched in the industry, something brewing company employees probably don’t think about as often as would be prudent. The obvious answer is “educate yourself”, but it leads to another great question: HOW? And I have a solid answer: Visit the Breweries list at SDBeer.com and scan the list of Guild members. The Guild’s regulations dictate that no brewing company owned in whole or in part by a Big Beer interest can qualify for membership. This is to protect the integrity of membership as the organization strives to educate the public on the importance of supporting local breweries (be on the lookout for an upcoming “get educated” campaign from the SDBG), especially as they find themselves under increasing attack from macro-beer giants with far greater resources and far less honorable (and far less legal) business practices. You can trust this list to guide you to bona fide independent operations. And you can help local breweries by sharing this online resource with others who share your locavorian ethics. It actually protects local consumers from more than just Big Beer.

Membership in the San Diego Brewers Guild and participation in its initiatives is voluntary. Although the Guild enjoys nearly 100% membership by qualifying businesses, no arms are twisted. The Guild has been key to the evolution and prominence of San Diego craft beer for the past two decades. Yet, believe it or not, there are some local brewery owners who choose not to be a part of it. While that decision in and of itself does not vilify a local, independent brewery, it does tell you something about that company. In a time when banding together and helping not only local businesses, but local consumers has never been more important, there are outliers who aren’t heeding the call to arms. Locavores looking to support local breweries  would do well to patronize the 100-plus operations looking to actively protect this region’s reputation and incredible sense of community over those who abstain.

As an aside (and I am in no way asserting that owners of non-SDBG member breweries fit the following description), there’s a new strain of brewery entrepreneur out there—people who think they have all the answers; who don’t help their neighbors and colleagues; who go it alone because they think so highly of and want everything for themselves; who honestly believe that every component of their business should be proprietary in an industry built on the open and honest exchanges of information, equipment, ingredients, manpower and, of course, beer. It’s sad to see. Without the openness and friendship they opt out of, the American craft-beer movement would not have progressed to the point where they would be able to be a part of it. To enter the brewing industry and actively erode the sense of camaraderie that makes it so special rivals the obfuscation and monkey-wrenching of Big Beer. With so many San Diego breweries upholding the long-held values that make this region’s beer scene so special, there’s no reason not to patronize them first or even exclusively. The key component there is to know who is making your beer and who is behind each brewery. Because so many of these individuals are locally focused beer-lovers just like you, it’s a fun rabbit hole to venture into, and the best first step is SDBeer.com.

San Diego beer is a wonderful thing. Locals and guests alike should feel good about enjoying it. The latest efforts of macro-breweries and money-grabbing newcomers have complicated things and made it harder to have a beer in tandem with a clean conscious. Fortunately, consulting the list of active San Diego Brewers Guild members provides an easy way to put all the business BS aside and go back to savoring local, independent, artisanal beer.

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Opinion: 10 Barrel is NOT local beer

Mar 31

I work for a San Diego brewery. There aren’t enough words or page-space on the planet to adequately convey how much that means to me and others in San Diego County’s craft-brewing community. Membership means so much: pouring one’s heart and soul into a collective movement; being engaged, thoughtful, upright stewards of a region’s hard-earned reputation; helping out would-be competitors by lending them time, ingredients, machinery, cold-box space, advice and even manpower; standing shoulder-to-shoulder with friends and colleagues in the name of lifting a rising tide. And it means doing all of this in one of the most competitive environments for beer in the world. Many are the brewers crafting world-class India pale ales that aren’t even in most peoples’ top 50 IPAs. Those beers would kill most anywhere else, but being a part of this scene is so special, brewers are willing to trade fame elsewhere for the challenge of securing their own piece of the San Diego brewing dream—one that was realized through the sweat, elbow-grease and determination of artisans who’ve fought for years, armed with little more than quality ales and lagers, to garner recognition that’s hard to come by in a culture dominated by the likes of Budweiser, Coors and Miller. So you can understand why many of us are more than a little angry to see Big Beer hijack our hometown’s name on a technicality in an attempt to fool locals and visitors alike into thinking one of their brands is one of us when they most certainly are not.

The 10 Barrel brewpub project site in the East Village

Last January, news broke that a 10 Barrel Brewing brewpub was coming to downtown San Diego’s East Village area. Many beer fans are familiar with 10 Barrel as the Bend, Oregon-based craft brewery that sold out to AB InBev in 2014, then immediately expanded its brewing capacity and beer distribution after major investments from its new owners. It is one of the numerous craft interests to sell part or all of itself to giant macro-beer conglomerates in the past half-decade as Big Beer behemoths struggle with decreasing market-share, thanks in significant part to the rise of the craft-beer movement and the country’s shift to buying local products and supporting local businesses. Seeing the steady increase of craft’s market-share, Big Beer went with the if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em model, gobbling up regional brands as quietly as possible and winning back shelf- and tap-space nationwide. And now, with people shifting to the support-your-local-everything model, AB InBev is constructing “local” 10 Barrel brewpubs in cities with notable craft-beer cultures and sales, including Portland, Boise, Denver and our very own San Diego.

Perhaps you’ve heard about this project. If you haven’t, it definitely isn’t for lack of trying on AB InBev’s part. With the San Diego pub scheduled to open next week, in typical Big Beer fashion, they are making a full-scale marketing push with media tours and advertisements (one as flashy as a full back-page and partial front-page wrap in a popular gratis San Diego publication printed over consecutive weeks) proclaiming their shiny new property as a “San Diego pub and brewery”. Yes, it’s a pub. Yes, it’s a brewery. Yes, it’s in San Diego. But this would be like seeing a Waffle House or White Castle come to town and bill itself as “a San Diego eatery and place to detox after the bars close.” Yes, it’s an eatery. Yes it’s a place to detox after the bars close. But it’s in no way “San Diego” just because of geography. These are chains that have no history here. They belong to other communities, communities that it would be a lot more respectful to name versus omit, but to do that would undermine AB InBev’s entire mission: to blend into the fabric of one of the country’s most revered brewing regions to snag a piece of the pie for themselves and, in the process, destabilize a vital craft-centric area. The 10 Barrel brewpubs are to small, local breweries what Wal-Mart is to Main Street USA mom-and-pops and hometown interests, built to replace in the name of growth and prosperity at the expense of all others.

America’s drink-local shift is one of the best things to ever happen to regional breweries…but it’s the bane of the big boys, whose only playing pieces in the micro-regional game are the pawns they’ve shelled out millions for in hopes the public won’t be able to tell the difference and will patronize thinking they are supporting actual, authentic craft-beer companies or, in this case, local craft breweries. Siting their two-story, roof-deck adorned, aesthetically pleasing, bell-and-whistle rich brewpub in downtown San Diego was no accident. The number of visitors who stay, play and attend events at the nearby San Diego Convention Center is immense. The vast majority of them won’t know the 10 Barrel brewpub is different from downtown’s legitimate local brewing operations (Half Door BrewingKarl Strauss BrewingMission BreweryMonkey Paw Pub & BreweryResident Brewing and Knotty Brewing, for those looking to make an informed decision), and will likely flock there as it will certainly have robust advertising geared directly to out-of-towners. A percentage of these misinformed individuals will go on to tell others about drinking “San Diego craft beer” at this place called 10 Barrel, the lie will be perpetuated and—like the notion that Budweiser is some all-American (it’s not) king of beers (as much as the Dallas Cowboys are “America’s team” simply because their owner says so)—AB InBev will chalk up another small victory against the thousands of craft breweries that know they’ll never win, but simply wish to compete on a level playing field they will never have. Big Beer simply won’t allow it, because if those corporations had to rely solely on the merit of their products, they wouldn’t stand a chance.

The brewhouse at 10 Barrel in San Diego

San Diego is already home to satellite links in national brewpub chains, namely Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom, neither of which make such attempts to proclaim themselves as San Diegan…even though they’ve paid plenty of dues and, in turn, have every right to count themselves as real and respected members of our community. The head brewer for the former is San Diego’s most respected lager expert. In addition to offering advice to the many dozens of local brewers who’ve sought it, he also holds numerous industry mixers to help foster the camaraderie of our county’s fermentation specialists, and has helped countless local charities. And the brewer who helmed Rock Bottom’s San Diego brewpub for nearly a decade-and-a-half served as the president of the San Diego Brewers Guild during a time when that volunteer position’s luster was at an all-time low. These brewpubs deserve the description AB InBev is self-proclaiming…but they are far from the only ones who’ve paid their dues.

Last weekend, Pizza Port’s Solana Beach brewpub celebrated its 30th year in business. In three decades, Pizza Port has grown into an empire of five coastal brewpubs that has earned scores of national and international medals for beers spanning styles the world over, and brought up more talented young brewers than I have time to list here. Its tiny but mighty Solana Beach spot opened nearly a decade before the likes of San Diego County breweries that would go on to become giants, seeing the beauty in brewing house beers before it was a proven business model rife with modern-day pomp and prestige. Pizza Port blazed trails and helped a great many along the way, all the while staying true to its local roots. Now there’s a business that should have ads plastered all over the local rags with the proud proclamation SAN DIEGO PUB AND BREWERY.

Big Beer looks at an institution like Pizza Port, Karl Strauss’ quintet of local brewpubs (including San Diego’s longest continually operating post-Prohibition brewery downtown), the 20-year-old San Diego Brewing Company and other authentically local operations, and they think to themselves: How can we make consumers think we’re every bit as local as them?

Make no mistake. AB InBev isn’t interested in being a member of San Diego’s brewing community. The purpose of installing a 10 Barrel brewpub in the heart of San Diego is to chip away at the local brewing community, siphoning off precious market-share from other San Diego craft breweries through its latest attempt at consumer deception. And to do it with a purchased craft-brand hailing from another city that even 10 Barrel barely belongs to at this point is about as convoluted as it gets. Which is a great thing for AB InBev. In a few years, how many people will remember this progression? Right now, even with the subject of acquisitions and locality at the forefront in the brewing industry, only the most engaged beer enthusiasts know which brands are truly craft and which are now Big Beer concerns or faux-craft brands created by macro-beer conglomerates to look like legitimate craft interests. It’s only going to get more difficult.

Monkey Paw’ Pub & Brewery’s sign and brewpub are visible from the upstairs deck at 10 Barrel’s San Diego brewpub.

When meeting with 10 Barrel co-founding partner, Garrett Wales, earlier this week at his downtown property, he said he feels good about his company’s “partnership” with AB InBev in light of acquisitions that have taken place after he and his partners’ decision to sell, pointing to Ballast Point Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing and Stone Brewing, which he says sold a big portion of the company to a private investors and was subsequently “gutted.” (When reached for comment on this subject, Stone co-founder Greg Koch, commented that he and co-founder Steve Wagner “remain the majority owners, maintain full board control, are 100% within the Brewers Association’s definition of a ‘craft brewer,’ and pull their own strings and write their own checks, thank you very much.”) Wales says 10 Barrel is 100% responsible for all of its brewpub expansion initiatives and that AB InBev merely signs off on ideas and subsequently signs checks. He says that the San Diego pub is not being billed as a part of the Bend-based business and instead as a “San Diego pub and brewery” because it will operate as an “independent arm of 10 Barrel” that will be “completely localized” and have its own regional feel.

When asked about the elephant in the room—namely, the bitter reception from San Diego brewers and devout fans of local craft beer—Wales contested, saying the reception has been “extremely good”. He mentioned a great deal of positivity on social media and said his team has visited many of San Diego’s breweries, interacted with their personnel and said they are as psyched 10 Barrel is coming. However, in communications conducted yesterday on the condition of anonymity, 80% of local brewery owners questioned stated they feel 10 Barrel’s arrival is a bad thing, with most of them expressing anger over deceptive advertising tactics as well as perceived underhanded and destructive motivations on AB InBev’s part..

Wales is aware that there are those who are against his project, but dubs them “a vocal minority.” Overall, he is bullish on the brewpub’s chances for success and urges locals to take 10 Barrel at face-value and give the business a chance. San Diego brewers are used to being in the minority; it’s a craft brewer’s lot in life, thanks mostly to Big Beer’s efforts to keep smaller competitors down. Please just give us a chance is the war cry of the entire craft-brewing industry. Like labeling an out-of-town Big Beer venue as “San Diego”, it sounds silly for a corporate wolf in local sheep’s clothing to lift that mantra from small businesses that actually need attention from a populace that so heavily consumes macro-beer over craft-beer—even at the height of the latter’s popularity—that Big Beer boasted well over 75% market share by volume nationwide in 2016, according to brewing industry trade group, the Brewers Association.

San Diego’s beer culture and reputation didn’t happen overnight. Our people—your people, San Diegans—worked unbelievably hard to build this magical confluence of flavor, quality and cachet in our own backyard. We will continue to protect and preserve it and hope San Diegans will do the same. Supporting local businesses is a noble notion and an even nobler practice. To each their own, of course, but if you agree, be sure your money is going where you think it is and not to a multi-national conglomerate Trojan horse.

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Q&A: Scot Blair—Part 1

Feb 25

headshot for bioOwner; Monkey Paw Pub & Brewing, South Park Brewing Company & Hamilton’s Tavern

Big Beer conglomerate AB-InBev’s 10 Barrel Brewpub project seemed to come out of nowhere. Slated for entry into downtown San Diego’s East Village, it’s actually the latest in an ongoing string of strategically placed brewpubs AB-InBev is installing in the country’s foremost craft-beer communities under the name of the Bend, Oregon-based former craft-brewery it bought out in 2014. The arrival of this faux-craft, brewery-equipped restaurant has sparked the ire of the San Diego Brewers Guild. Last week, members of the local brewing industry and fans of independent local breweries rallied at a meeting of the Downtown Community Planning Council where, despite concern from San Diego businesses and citizens, the neighborhood use permit was approved. A public protest period is coming up, but the probability of the project being denied at any point isn’t likely. Seeking the voice of someone who, first off, will be the closest legitimate craft-beer competition for the 10 Barrel pub and, secondly, isn’t the least bit afraid to speak his mind, we sat down with Scot Blair, the owner of the East Village’s Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery (as well as nearby South Park Brewing Company and Hamilton’s Tavern). He responded with equal parts honesty and verbosity. The following is part one of a two-part question-and-answer exchange.

Why do you think AB-InBev and Big Beer in general would want to come into a community esteemed for its local beer, especially using an acquired brand from Oregon?
Scot Blair: It’s simple, really. They are expanding their footprint by any means necessary—assimilate and destroy.

With the Guild, CCBA and BA vehemently opposed to the 10 Barrel Project, how can it be viewed as a positive development by anyone?
SB: Obfuscation. Not only from Big Beer, but from our glorified real-estate moguls. Think of the people behind this. First you have Makers Quarter with developers Lankford & Associates and Hensel Phelps. Next you have HP Investors LLC and, mind you, they both partner together for a group they call L2HP. These are the puppet-masters. Now look at “Makers Quarter.” This is a tag-phrase they created when the only “maker” that was even doing anything in the area was Monkey Paw. If you listen well, their shills will tell you that this is going to bring millennial tech and residential to the East Village, and it will be a huge boon companion for growth in the community, and how wonderful all of this is for San Diego’s booming “craft” beer scene. This is absolute bull. These snakes, I’m sure, they could also tell us how SDG&E raising rates as the “only game in town” after year-in and year-out record profits is “great for the community,” too! The only entity this does any good for is them by way of giant cash windfalls directly benefiting their greed and, to be frank, it’s sickening to me and really shows what they are made of by way of caring about the community. They are simply doing everything and anything they can to lease property at all cost while trying to make up insane angles to convince unwitting consumers that this is such a good thing. It’s no different than Big Pharma or Wall Street, in my opinion.
— Editor’s note: When reached for comment, Michael Burton, the commercial broker for the bindery building and its property owner, told us that “the property was publicly marketed, and 10 Barrel was the only brewery to show interest in the location.”

How do you feel the arrival of the 10 Barrel project will impact other local brewing businesses such as your own, Half Door Brewing Company and Mission Brewery?
SB: I can definitely find a silver-lining and make lemonade as I’ve done my whole career, but in reality, brewpubs like Monkey Paw and Half Door will have to work even harder with far less with which to fight that uphill battle on quality. So obviously and most certainly it will have an impact. You have to understand the common consumer has been, and continues to be, so misguided. The real fans and independent thinkers of great beer are still a strong minority. The vast majority of beer-drinkers are simply enamored with marketing, hype and all things with a sheen that glimmer. To think that, in this day and age, making fantastic, award-winning beer is not enough, is sad. Great beer still falls deaf to the ears of too many of our San Diego locals who aren’t getting the right message from these deep-pocketed snake-oil salesmen standing at their pulpits hyping to fleece.

Can beers brewed at the 10 Barrel project be regarded as “local”?
SB: They are local as much as Citgo gas-stations are local. This is a classic wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing scenario. Of course it’s not local! Sure, it will create some local jobs, but the money spent by the people will go right into the hands of AB-InBev. People can play technicalities, but in the end, what folks should be supporting is small, independently owned mom-and-pop establishments. This is the moral ethos that people think about when they try to spend local, not billion-dollar companies, large restaurant groups, big real-estate conglomerates. C’mon…really?! There is no integrity in them and, at its core, it personifies despicable greed.

What can be done now, and by whom?
SB: First off, it starts with you and other people like you and all of us, really. We have a voice in our spending habits. Let’s use it! I have never had a problem calling out bullshit or speaking out against what I feel is injustice. I get that folks may not like the obtuse nature of my opinion and that’s okay, because I’m trying to prevent people from drowning and I’m trying to continue the mission. We need to continue to shove our way to the front and pull the curtain back on these mistruths, call out these scumbag real-estate developers who would have you believe that the only option for them was to sign AB-InBev to this deal. What a crock of shit that is! They care about the community? The industry? Yeah, so much they are bringing in our biggest threat without exhausting efforts elsewhere. Obviously, telling someone they can’t open a business isn’t the answer. It’s un-American, even if the rich get richer and the small businesses go under. The local beer community should be in outrage and should be vocal, imploring folks to simply not go (to the 10 Barrel brewpub). Instead, dump twice as much support into these very small, independent places because if you are about “local” and you are about “indie” and you are about “community,” then it’s your obligation to HELP SMALL BUSINESS SURVIVE! People need to walk the walk when it comes to this specific dilemma. I think we have a lot more hypocrites than we do pioneers and it shouldn’t be that way in this day and age.

This is only the start of some eye-opening and thought-provoking back-and-forth. Check back to our website for the second-half of our Q&A with Scot Blair on Tuesday, March 1.

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Saint Archer Brewery sells out to Big Beer

Sep 10

It’s been the talk of the Internet for days, but for me, it started a month ago when a trusted source in Northern California informed me that sales reps from a certain Big Beer company were crowing about how psyched they were about the impending acquisition of an undisclosed “San Diego craft brewery.” Like many who have since heard this recent rumor, I started considering which of the county’s brewing companies would be the first to sell-out to the big guys. And like many, my short-list was headed by Saint Archer Brewery. There were other potential sellers, but if ever there were a significantly sized San Diego brewery built to be sold and primed to cash in, it was this one.

In the two-plus years since Saint Archer debuted, the company has often courted controversy. Within its first several months of existence, it jettisoned one of the county’s veteran salespeople and cut ties with brewmaster Ray Astamendi, an industry trouper who has since gone on to wow local beer fans at his own operation, Fall Brewing Co., while rising to stud status as a brewhouse consultant for Premier Stainless. Upon doing so, they proceeded to hire away Pizza Port standout brewer Yiga Miyashiro to revive credibility. Thanks to he and brewmaster Kim Lutz, Saint Archer’s reputation improved, though the majority of beer nerd die-hards never bought into a marketing campaign nearly devoid of beer (mostly skateboards, beachscapes, lifestyle pics and shots of alt-sports athletes), especially when the company went against its “brewed in San Diego” branding, angering many San Diegans with a post professing the company’s affections for Dodger Stadium, while subsequently trashing Petco Park and engaging in insulting back-and-forth messages with dissenting social media users. The company released an apology about a month later, in May.

Many will not be surprised to learn that London-headquartered MillerCoors announced it will acquire a majority-share of Saint Archer. (After being denied when asked directly more than a month prior). Macrobreweries purchasing or acquiring majority shares in legitimate craft brewing companies to increase sales and market share while simultaneously chipping away at its competitor base is nothing new. It’s been occurring for some time and ramping up over the past few years with acquisitions of companies like Elysian Brewing Co., 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Goose Island Beer and, most recently, Lagunitas. This, however, is the first time this has occurred in San Diego County.

Most within the craft beer industry and its growing legions of fans concede that it was only a matter of time before a local interest sold out. San Diego is a market with a stellar reputation for the manufacture of artisan ales and lagers, as well as a population that consumes a great deal of craft beer. There was much to be gained by purchasing a willing San Diego craft brewery, including an instant foothold in the local and national industry. Many are the drinkers who don’t know or don’t care who owns or controls a brewery, providing the opportunity for MillerCoors to build off of the Saint Archer brand and San Diego’s good name immediately.

Of course, it’s within any business’ right to sell to anyone. That’s their prerogative, but that’s not the problem. Big Beer actively pushes legislation meant to hurt the small guys, as we’ve seen in FloridaBig Beer also controls many of the distribution channels in the United States, so expect to see more Saint Archer at the Coors-focused bars.

Many local, long-tenured breweries I’ve spoken to are not happy Big Beer is now in their backyard. Some of them claim they would never sell, most vocally (my employer) Stone Brewing Co., the owners of which have guaranteed that to their employee base on multiple occasions. These are breweries whose beers won the awards and hearts of beer drinkers the world over, laying the foundation for San Diego County’s reputation as an epicenter for craft beer innovation and quality. The same reputation that Saint Archer leveraged to look attractive to MillerCoors. The same reputation MillerCoors hopes to leverage to look attractive to consumers. Many are worried Big Beer’s presence will taint that reputation. Only time will tell in this latest “first” for San Diego’s brewing industry.

A press release with additional information is below.

SAN DIEGO and CHICAGO – Tenth and Blake, the craft and import division of MillerCoors, announced today an agreement to acquire a majority interest in Saint Archer Brewing Company.

Founded in San Diego in 2013 by a talented group of entrepreneurs, artists, skateboarders and surfers, Saint Archer brews an award-winning range of ales including Blonde Ale, IPA, White Ale and Pale Ale. Saint Archer expects to sell 35,000 barrels of beer in 2015, up more than 100 percent over 2014, making it one of the fastest-growing breweries in California. Tenth and Blake plans to support its continued growth under the ongoing leadership of Josh Landan, Saint Archer co-founder and president.

“We have always wanted to get great beer into more people’s hands,” said Landan. “We were fortunate that brewers big and small were interested in partnering with us, but Tenth and Blake was the clear choice. Tenth and Blake shares our passion for putting great beer first. Joining Tenth and Blake allows us to keep doing what we love right here in San Diego, but now with more resources to innovate and grow. With Tenth and Blake’s help, we hope to one day be a national brand.”

Saint Archer’s management and their team will continue to brew, package, ship, and sell Saint Archer’s outstanding portfolio of high-quality brands. Saint Archer will be run as a separate business unit of Tenth and Blake.

“We’re really excited about our partnership with Saint Archer,” said Scott Whitley, president and CEO of Tenth and Blake. “Saint Archer is consistent with our strategy of building our high-end portfolio while driving topline growth. Josh and his team represent everything we look for in a partner. Saint Archer brews award-winning ales across a variety of styles that are complementary to our current portfolio—including some outstanding IPAs. We’re excited at the prospect of working together to support the continued success of Saint Archer.”

Saint Archer picked up two gold medals at the 2014 San Diego International Beer Festival and a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.

Saint Archer joins other leading crafts in the Tenth and Blake portfolio, including Blue Moon Brewing Company, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, Crispin Cider Company and a minority equity stake in Terrapin Beer Company.

The transaction is expected to complete in October 2015. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

About Saint Archer Brewing Company:

Saint Archer Brewing Company was founded on a unique strain of creative talent: World-class brewers, Artists and Musicians, Surfers, Skateboarders and Snowboarders; all coming together with passion and commitment to express our collective true love – handcrafted beer. Saint Archer has been a long time in the tank and we hope you taste our appreciation and gratitude in every sip.www.saintarcherbrewery.com

About Tenth and Blake Beer Company:

Tenth and Blake is the craft and import division of MillerCoors. The Tenth and Blake family includes Blue Moon Brewing Co. at the SandLot in Denver, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. in Chippewa Falls, Wis., 10th Street Brewery in Milwaukee, Crispin Cider Company in Colfax, Calif., AC Golden in Golden, Colorado, Birra Peroni in Rome, Plzeňský Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell) in Pilsen, Czech Republic, and a minority equity stake in Terrapin Beer Co. Tenth and Blake beers and ciders include Blue Moon Belgian White, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, Crispin Original, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Pilsner Urquell, George Killian’s Irish Red, Colorado Native and Grolsch. You can find out more at www.Facebook.com/TenthAndBlake.

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