Kirin-owned Lion acquires New Belgium Brewing

The craft beverage division of Australian food and drink company Lion, itself owned by Japan’s Kirin, has acquired Colorado-based brewery New Belgium for an undisclosed sum.

The purchase of New Belgium, the fourth largest craft brewery in the US according to the Brewers Association definition, is expected to close by the end of this year pending regulatory approval.

This marks the first acquisition in the US by Lion and its craft division Lion Little World Beverages, however Lion’s parent company, Kirin, has a 24.5% stake in Brooklyn Brewery, which it acquired in 2016.

The company currently imports beer made by its Australian beer brand Little Creatures into the US, and opened a Little Creatures brewpub in San Francisco earlier this year.

Founded in Fort Collins in 1991, New Belgium has since expanded to Asheville, North Carolina, in 2016 and Denver, Colorado in 2018.

In August 2017, a group led by New Belgium Brewing Company, which also includes Elysian Brewing founder Dick Cantwell and Belgian producer Oud Beersel, agreed to purchase San Francisco’s ailing Magnolia Brewing Company for US$2.7 million.

Now, Brewbound reports that Magnolia will be included in the Lion deal, with New Belgium acquiring the remaining stake the business that it does not currently own from Cantwell and Beersel.

Known for its Fat Tire Amber Ale and Voodoo Ranger IPA, New Belgium operates two breweries in Fort Collins and Asheville and has a national distribution platform.

Commenting on the deal, Matt Tapper, managing director of Lion Little World Beverages, said: “We’re excited to welcome New Belgium Brewing into our global family of craft beverage brands. Since meeting the New Belgium team, we’ve been incredibly impressed not just with their commitment to world-class beer and the way they bring their brands to life, but their purpose-led business model and connection to the community – all values we share at Lion.

“Our owner, Kirin, has entrusted Lion with leading its global craft beer strategy and this announcement is a real milestone for us. Over time, we see a great opportunity to work together with New Belgium Brewing to grow a wider portfolio of craft beverages in the U.S., and build on the great business that Kim, Steve and the entire New Belgium team have created.”

Kim Jordan, co-founder of New Belgium Brewing added: “If there are three things we’re known for at New Belgium, it’s our dedication to innovation and excellence in beer, our commitment to the culture and wellbeing of our co-workers, and our crazy enthusiasm for being a business role model. We were thinking about these three things as we began to explore being a part of the Little World family.”

“We’ve been pushing the boundaries of beer innovation as pioneers for almost three decades. Little World are brewers’ brewers and we have really felt their commitment to this ancient craft. We’re absolutely excited about helping to build a collective of breweries – each with their own vibe – who share the same commitment to delighting beer drinkers with great beer, great businesses, and great collaboration among us.”

Before the agreement, New Belgium was 100% owned by its over 300 employees.

Upon completion of the deal, New Belgium’s headquarters will remain in Fort Collins and its current CEO, Steve Fechheimer, will continue in his role, along with the current management team.

A statement noted that Kim Jordan would continue to be “deeply involved” with the brewer and will also have a “key advisory role”. A full statement from Jordan can be viewed here. 

Lion, which employs around 4,000 people across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Asia and the U.S, has already been active across the pond.

In July 2018 it acquired Bermondsey-based craft brewery Fourpure for an undisclosed sum, followed in March 2019 by the purchase Huddersfield’s Magic Rock Brewing Company.

Also in March, it acquired a 50% stake in Australian gin brand Four Pillars and in April, it announced plans to open a London brewery for its craft beer brand Little Creatures.

In addition to a 24.5% stake in Brooklyn Brewery, parent company Kirin Holdings owns Kirin Brewery Company and Kirin Beverage Company, has a 55% stake in Myanmar Brewery Ltd and jointly owns San Miguel Brewery.

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