Lion acquires 100% stake in UK craft brewery Magic Rock

Australian food and drinks giant Lion has acquired a 100% stake in UK craft brewer Magic Rock Brewing Company for an undisclosed sum.

L-R: Matt Tapper, Lion Global Markets marketing manager; Richard Burhouse, co-founder and managing director, Magic Rock; Toby Knowles, Lion’s regional director for the UK(Photo: Magic Rock Brewing).

Magic Rock, based in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, was founded in 2011 and has regularly been included in user comparison site Ratebeer’s Top 100 world brewers ranking.  It joins Lion’s growing portfolio of craft breweries, which also includes Panhead and Emerson’s in New Zealand, Australia’s Little World Beverages and, more recently, Fourpure in south London, which Lion acquired in July 2018.

Lion’s managing director Mark Tapper said the brewery is “one the pioneers in the UK craft beer scene and has built a loyal following due to its relentless pursuit of authenticity and quality.”

“Lion has a long and proud history in craft beer in Australia and New Zealand and we see some great opportunities to help put Magic Rock in the hands of more beer lovers.”

In a blog post on Magic Rock’s website, managing director Richard Burhouse said the decision to sell the company to the Kirin Holdings subsidiary is one the management team “haven’t taken lightly,” but added that he and other shareholders will stay on for at least another four years.

“It’s testament to Lion’s philosophy that in other breweries they’ve invested in, the founders (such as Chuck Hahn in Australia) are still involved many years later,” he said.

Production will stay at Magic Rock’s Huddersfield headquarters “for the long-term,” and said that the acquisition will enable the site’s expansion, paying for the rental of units close to the current base.

“There’ll also be improvements to our infrastructure including new offices, lab, quality control and sensory departments.”

Lion’s investment will also help Magic Rock to develop its reach both in the UK and globally.

“Of course, I realise that this news will not be universally well received but I’m also conscious that internationally renowned brewing companies don’t invest in Huddersfield every day, and I’m delighted that the journey we started eight years ago has got us to this point.”

Lion’s parent company is Japanese drinks giant Kirin Holdings, which as well as the Kirin Brewery Company and Kirin Beverage Company, also has a 55% stake in Myanmar Brewery Ltd, jointly owns San Miguel Brewery and has a 24.5% stake in Brooklyn Brewery.

Lion has already made a large investment this month, a 50% stake in fellow Australian gin brand Four Pillars.

The integrity of the craft beer movement is a hotly debated topic within the brewing industry, particularly as large-scale drinks producers are starting to take a greater interest in independent breweries and make acquisitions. Last summer, north London brewery Beavertown sold a 49% stake in its business to Heineken for £40 million, which would go towards a new state-of-the-art brewing facility as well as securing a brewpub at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, a first for any independent brewery. After announcing the deal, several bottle shops decided to stop selling Beavertown’s beers, while other breweries also pulled out of the London producer’s upcoming beer festival, Beavertown Extravaganza.

Previously independent brewers that have been sold to global drinks giants include Fuller’s, which was snapped up by Japanese giant Asahi in January, London Fields, which Carlsberg bought for £1m in 2017, and Lagunitas, which sold the remainder of its business to Heineken in May the same year.

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