I am generally sanguine about the creative destruction in the beer industry that leads to acquisitions and buy-outs–but this sent a pang through my heart:
Anheuser-Busch InBev reportedly has agreed to buy Belgian brewer Bosteels, maker of Tripel Karmeliet, Kwak and other specialty beers. A-B InBev, also based in Belgium, agreed to buy Bosteels from the family that founded the brewery over 200 years ago, according to TheStreet. Financial terms weren’t disclosed but Belgian news sources estimate the deal’s value at 200 million euros ($225.4 million), according to the report. Antoine Bosteels will continue to run the brewery as part of A-B InBev’s craft and specialty division.
It wasn’t surprising. A week ago, reports surfaced that Heineken and Duvel Moortgat were also in the hunt. The brewery makes three pretty impressive beers, and represented a prize to any brewery. Tripel Karmeliet sells very well and has a (largely bogus) connection to an old Carmelite monastery that Bosteels has long trumpeted. Kwak has long been one of the most famous Belgian brands, thanks partly to its funny glass. And Deus is perhaps the most well-known champagne-style Belgian beer. All three of these can reach different markets and have wholly distinctive personalities, and that must have been quite alluring to the perspective buyers. The price tag looks pretty high for a brewery that makes just 120,000 barrels, but consider the per-bottle price these beers command, and it makes more sense. ABI should be able to do with these brands what they’ve done with Leffe and Hoegaarden and make them super-premium international brands. Look for them at a grocery store near you.
I will say this: ABI’s international craft-brewery division (called, unironically, the Global Disruption Group), is acquiring some primo breweries. Last year they picked up Camden Town, and earlier this year they snatched up Birra Del Borgo–two of the crown jewels in their respective countries. Jerome Pellaud heads up the team that acquires these breweries, and he’s doing an impressive job–particularly since there was a bidding war here.
For Belgium, where fewer and fewer venerable family brands survive, this must be considered a pretty hard blow. But $225m is a lot of Benjamins, and it would be hard for any family to turn their back on a pile of cash that large. As Vonnegut would have said, “and so it goes…”