Craft Beer Acquisitions: Sellouts or Success Stories?

Craft Beer Acquisitions: Sellouts or Success Stories?

The craft beer sector has shown a steady growth despite many small and independent breweries being acquired by beer giants.

According to the Brewers Association (BA), “in 2016, craft brewers produced 24.6 million barrels, and saw a 6 percent rise in volume on a comparable base and a 10 percent increase in retail dollar value...By adding 1.4 million barrels, craft brewer growth outpaced the 1.2 million barrels lost from the craft segment, based on purchases by large brewing companies. Microbreweries and brewpubs delivered 90 percent of the craft brewer growth.”

In an effort to continue nurturing that growth, the BA decided to create an Independent Craft Brewer Seal with the reasoning that the logo would serve as a tool for craft-beer enthusiasts to distinguish if their favorite beer was made by an independent brewer or not. In order to carry the stamp, a brewery has to meet the “craft brewer definition” determined by BA.

Craft Brewer Defined by Brewers Association

  • Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales)
  • Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
  • A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation.

Foodable has been following the growth of craft beer in the U.S. since its inception and has reported on the origins of "Beervana," what the craft beer market expectations and challenges are, and has provided a behind the scenes look into some craft beer companies through its show Beer Artisan.

Most recently, though, the debate on what it truly means to be a craft brewer and consumer sentiments towards independent brewers who have been acquired by non-craft beer businesses have sparked Foodable’s curiosity.

Enter Foodable Labs, our sister data company which has helped us compare the overall sentiment scores for three beer brands (Four Peaks Brewing, Cigar City Brewery, and Lagunitas Brewing) before and after their acquisitions.

Each beer brand was acquired by a company with more resources with goals of amplifying the beer production as well as the reach of the craft beer’s brand.

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Cigar City Says Tampa Brew Scene has Room To Grow

The city of Tampa, Fla. has a rich history surrounding Cuban cigars and a man known as Vincente Ybor. Cigar City Brewing, a beer company aptly named after the Cuban cigar production brought to Tampa Bay by Ybor, uses the history of the city to guide their work.

For example, Cigar City’s “El Lector,” Neil Callaghan, has a title inspired by the “Lectores” in cigar factories. "El Lector" was the person whose job it was to inform and entertain the cigar rollers.

As Callaghan shares with us, history is also tied into the actual brewing done at Cigar City.

“... Maduro which is a dark wrap around a cigar which is our brown ale. So a lot of the names, a lot of the approach, and a lot of the special ingredients do have that tie-in back to Cuba.”

Cigar City Brewing hand-mashes its malt, and hand fills its kegs in an effort have total control over their production process. On this episode of Beer Artisan, Callaghan explains how there is room for growth in Florida beer production if you look at the number of breweries in relation to the population. Watch the episode above to see Callaghan and his pup, Egg, take a historical journey through Cigar City.

 
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Get a Taste of Tampa's History at Cigar City Brewing

Video Produced by Denise Toledo

Tampa, Florida is a city rich with history and the locals do not take that history for granted. Cigar City Brewing is one such local business that keeps the history of Tampa alive. Aptly named after the Cuban cigar production brought in by Vincente Ybor, Cigar City Brewing uses the history of the city to guide their work. Take, for example, Cigar City’s “El Lector” Neil Callaghan, whose title was inspired by the “Lectores” in cigar factories. "El Lector" was the person whose job it was to inform and entertain the cigar rollers. As Neil shares with us, history also influences the actual brewing done at Cigar City.

“... Maduro, which is a dark wrap around a cigar...is our brown ale. So a lot of the names, a lot of the approach, and a lot of the special ingredients do have that tie-in back to Cuba.”

Neil and his dog, Egg (Cigar City's official greeter) take their jobs very seriously. Neil has tasted more than 5,000 beers and traveled around the world to learn and share information with other brewers. 

Where There’s Water

Tampa began as a military outpost around Tampa Bay known as Fort Brooke. The outpost was established in 1824 and the need for water was one of the first essentials the troops saw to. Later on, Vicente Ybor brought his cigar factories to what is now called Ybor City. At that time, the spring’s water was in use by an ice plant, but Ybor had different plans. In 1896, Ybor’s second-in-command, Eduardo Manrara, organized Florida’s first brewery, The Ybor City Brewing Company. It was later renamed The Florida Brewing Company.

When the Spanish-American War began in 1898, the brewery ramped up production, serving the 30,000 troops, including Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Roosevelt would have boarded his horse at the police stable in Ybor City that now houses Cigar City Cider and Mead.

Craft Beer Returns

After the Spanish-American War, there was a slowdown in beer production. Tampa wasn’t really a home to local beer again until the early 1990s when some home brewers on different sides of Tampa Bay decided to each open their own family breweries. These brewers, the Doble family of Tampa Bay Brewing Company and the Bryant family of Dunedin Brewery, reintroduced local beer to the Tampa area and started the culture that exists now — a culture that Cellar Manager Tom Brown thinks is important to the growth of craft beer.

“People in this industry are pretty cool because a majority of them are artists. They all take pride in what they do and they really want to help another brewer out. We share — share information, share ingredients, then after work, we get to share a beer.”

According to the Foodable Labs Beverage Index, Cigar City is ranked number 2 out of the hundreds of breweries indexed. Probably due in part to the popular brews they distribute like  like Jai Alai and Hunahpu's Imperial Stout. Cigar City Brewing hand-mashes its grain, and hand-fills its kegs in an effort have total control over their production process. Neil explains how there is room for growth in Florida beer production. Florida is underdeveloped if you look at the number of breweries in relation to the population. Check out Neil and his pup, Egg, on their historical journey through Cigar City on this episode of "Beer Artisan."