I suppose it was inevitable…after AB InBev announced their “stunning” (ie: completely predictable) purchase of Goose Island, another brewery has decided to counter InBev by making their own blockbuster deal. Only this time, the macro/micro roles have been reversed. In a move that hadn’t even been hinted at over the past few months, Oskar Blues (the pioneer of canned craft beers) has finalized a buy-out of MolsonCoors that gives the Lyons, CO-based brewery a 51.3% ownership share of the Canadian beer giant. I’ll wait for your collective jaws to be scraped up off the floor…
The move is being hailed by industry insiders as a brilliant and unprecedented coup by a craft beer darling. Oskar Blues, currently the largest brewpub in the US by volume, has leveraged investments from at least two Wall Street hedge funds (no word on which ones are involved just yet) and another half-dozen VC groups in order to purchase a controlling interest in MolsonCoors. While there is ample concern about the relatively tiny brewery being able to pay off the massive debt incurred in the sale, an anonymous investor has noted that some clever debt restructuring and a soon-to-be unveiled aggressive marketing strategy should allow Oskar Blues to pay off debt much more quickly than some doubters have anticipated.
From their end, Oskar Blues will inherit MolsonCoors’ enormous distribution network, not to mention a plethora of cutting-edge brewhouses around the world (including the largest single brewing facility on Earth in Golden, CO). Oskar Blues will be moving their main brewing operations to the former Coors flagship in Golden where they will immediately begin scaling up production of their award-winning Dale’s Pale Ale, Ten FIDY and G’Knight. Dale Katechis, CEO of Oskar Blues, has been a bit cagey about what the fate of the former MolsonCoors offerings will be, but he has implied that the adjunct lagers that have served as the mainstays of the company might be on their way out.
“With the unprecedented growth of craft beer over the past decade, North Americans have revealed their interest in beer with flavor, character, and complexity. There may still be a place for boring pale lagers in the beer world, but the focus at OMC (OskarMolsonCoors) will most likely shift to more aggressive offerings,” said Katechis.
You would be hard-pressed to find a precedent for this kind of David vs. Goliath take-over in ANY industry. Oskar Blues will immediately go from having just a few dozen staffers to close to 10,000 employees overnight. More importantly, their brewing capacity will leap from about 40,000 barrels a year to over 40 million. The logistics of such growth for a small company are mind-boggling, but Katechis has noted that many of his investors have experience in the world of “Big Beer” and will help him take baby steps as he grows into his new role as CEO of the 5th largest brewing operation in the world.
Easily my favorite aspect of the story is Dale Katechis’s tongue-in-cheek reference to the Gordon-Biersch flap (GB recently forced Oskar Blues to change the title of their Gordon Imperial Red Ale because it sounded similar to their company’s name). Said Katechis, “I can’t wait to unveil our first new offering after the sale goes through. We’re calling it the Gordon-Biersch Can Suck My Balls Ale. I sure hope my multi-billion dollar empire doesn’t get sued!”
Awesome, Dale. Just awesome.
More on this incredible story as it develops…