ANOTHER MAJOR acquisition has taken place in the beer world. Craft beer pioneer Anchor Brewing will be sold to Japan’s Sapporo Holdings Ltd. in a deal worth about $85 million. The 121-year-old San Francisco brewery is the latest independent brewer to be purchased by a much larger beer company, part of an ongoing trend. In May, Heineken NV purchased full control of Lagunitas Brewing Co., and Anheuser Busch InBev bought North Carolina’s Wicked Weed Brewing Co. The purchase price is a fraction of recent deals for California craft breweries. Heineken spent $5OO million for 5O% of Lagunitas in 2O15, and about the same for the remaining half. San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits also sold for about $1 billion to Constellation Brands in 2O15. The price is about 2.5 times Anchor’s 2O16 annual sales of $33 million. Anchor produced 135,OOO barrels in 2O16, down 4% from the previous year. In 2O15, Lagunitas produced about 791,OOO barrels and Ballast Point about 278,OOO barrels.
Founded in 1896, Anchor was near bankruptcy when Fritz Maytag bought the company in 1965. Maytag changed the brewer’s focus, making high-quality beers at higher prices, ultimately sparking the craft beer movement across the country in the 197Os. Maytag sold to a local investment group in 2O1O. Sapporo is even older than Anchor, founded in 1876, and Anchor is its first US acquisition. The company said it intends to keep operations in San Francisco. Anchor had reportedly sought a buyer for the past year before settling on Sapporo, which is the best-selling Asian beer in the US. Anchor Distilling Co. (ADC) which produces a line of spirits was not involved in the deal, and will become a standalone company once the brewery acquisition is completed. For the time being, ADC will continue to operate out of the same facility as Anchor Brewing, but it is on the hunt for a new facility within San Francisco.