The Surprise Anheuser-Busch Purchase

This morning, AB InBev (ABI) made a surprise announcement. For three years, folks like me have been watching August 2019 with interest. A deal struck with Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) allows ABI to buy it outright if the megabrewer makes a qualifying offer by the 24th of this month. But today’s announcement has nothing to do with CBA. Instead, it involves a relatively obscure brewery in Cleveland:

New York and Cleveland, August 7, 2019 - Platform Beer Co., the fastest growing regional brewery in the United States in 2017 known for their diverse portfolio of unique beers and innovative approach, will join Anheuser-Busch’s Brewers Collective as its newest craft partner. Platform brings data-driven innovation and energy to the craft beer world with operations in Ohio’s three largest metropolitan cities: Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. The partnership will continue Anheuser-Busch’s long track record of working with their craft partners to make the U.S. beer category stronger and more vibrant.

The brewery was founded in 2014, and according to Brewbound experienced 300% growth in 2017, shooting from 6500 to 20,000 barrels. It seemed that, with the exception of the possible CBA deal, ABI was happy to stand pat with its portfolio of craft brands. The last time it purchased a brewery was Wicked Weed in May 2017 (though it did buy out its final share of Virtue Cider later that year). But Platform features all the elements ABI looks for in a potential target, and perhaps it was too tasty to pass up. In addition to its explosive growth, it has multiple facilities and tasting rooms (similar to 10 Barrel), self-distribution (no pesky MillerCoors distributors to mess with), strong local presence, and a niche not already present in the portfolio. In this case, Platform offers beer slushies, beer cocktails, seltzers, and hazies. Or as ABI styled it in their press release: “The brewery’s unparalleled creativity and experimentation has resulted in more than 600 recipes that include a variety of unique seasonals, sours, ciders and fruit ales, barrel-aged beers, and a line of hard seltzer.” It doesn’t seem like a stretch to suggest ABI will be using Platform to reach younger Millennials and Gen Z drinkers.

Since ABI’s tentative experiment with craft purchases began in 2011, it has added a dozen breweries and a cidery. Oh, and for those of you keeping score at home, this collection is no longer called the “High End” by ABI, but “Brewers Collective.”

  • Goose Island, March 2011

  • Blue Point, Feb 2014

  • 10 Barrel, Nov 2014

  • Elysian, Jan 2015

  • Golden Road, Sept 2015

  • Breckenridge, Dec 201

  • Four Peaks. Dec 2015

  • Devils Backbone, April 2016

  • Karbach, Nov 2016

  • Veza Sur, April 2017

  • Wicked Weed, May 2017

  • (Virtue Cider) ,Sept 2017

  • Platform Beer, August 2019

I’ll leave you with a map of the distribution of these companies so you can see the geography of ABI’s Baby Buds.

Jeff Alworth4 Comments