Beer, Wine & Spirits

Anheuser-Busch scoops up another craft brewer

Meg Gill, co-founder and president of Golden Road Brewing
Gary Friedman | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Anheuser-Busch is no longer "California dreaming" when it comes to owning a craft brewery in the Golden State.

Just one week after confirming that it approached SABMiller regarding a potential combination of the two companies, the brewing giant on Wednesday announced that it has acquired Los Angeles-based Golden Road Brewing, the largest craft brewer in Los Angeles County.

Golden Road was founded by Meg Gill and Tony Yanow in 2011 and expects to sell 45,000 barrels of beer this year.

"Their focus on giving back to the community and impact on the Los Angeles craft market in four short years makes Golden Road a strong addition to our craft portfolio," said Andy Goeler, CEO of craft beer at Anheuser-Busch, in a statement.

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The Golden Road acquisition continues a recent spending spree within the craft industry by Anheuser-Busch. Though terms of the deal were not disclosed, the company over the past four years has spent an estimated $200 million dollars in four separate transactions involving Goose Island Beer Co. of Chicago; Blue Point Brewing in Patchogue, New York; 10 Barrel Brewing from Bend, Oregon, and Seattle's Elysian Brewing.

That Anheuser-Busch has been aggressively looking to acquire additional craft breweries is well known in the beer industry.

As the largest market in the country and based on the geographic locations of its previous acquisitions (Illinois, New York, Oregon and Washington), California was an obvious target for Anheuser-Busch. Beer Marketer Insights' Benj Steinmann recently told CNBC that acquiring a craft brewer in the Golden State was a "must" for the company.

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Golden Road's Gill said the acquisition will mean "business as usual" for the company, but things will be "amplified" now that it has access to Anheuser-Busch's resources.

"We didn't have a for-sale sign in the ground. We weren't looking to sell our business," Gill said in a video conversation with Goeler after the deal was announced. "But we started looking at the landscape, and what AB was doing with their craft brands ... this is an opportunity we can't pass up."

The Golden Road acquisition is the latest in series of deals and announcements in what is shaping up to make 2015 a memorable year in the craft beer industry.

Already this year, Anheuser-Busch acquired Elysian; Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, California, sold a 50 percent stake to Heineken; MillerCoors purchased a majority stake in San Diego-based Saint Archer Brewing; and Escondido, California-based Stone Brewing Co.'s founder, Greg Koch, announced he will be give up the CEO title after 19 years.

Craft beer has been a bright spot during a period when market leaders Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors have been fighting declining sales. According to the Brewers Association, craft beer hit 11 percent market share by volume in 2014, the first time it hit double digits. That's up from 5 percent in 2010.