Anheuser-Busch buying craft beer maker Elysian Brewing

AP News
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Posted: Jan 23, 2015 6:34 PM
Anheuser-Busch buying craft beer maker Elysian Brewing

Anheuser-Busch is buying Seattle's Elysian Brewing Co., further expanding its collection of craft brewers as it tries to offset sagging sales of its flagship beers.

The financial terms of the deal announced Friday were not disclosed.

Anheuser-Busch is the U.S. arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, a Belgian company that is the world's largest brewer. The company, which makes Budweiser and Bud Lite, has been combatting soft sales by buying up increasingly popular craft brewers.

While nationwide beer sales declined 1.9 percent in 2013, craft beer sales rose 17 percent, according to the Brewers Association, which represents craft brewers.

Anheuser-Busch announced in November that it was buying 10 Barrel Brewing of Oregon, raising the ire of many of its fans. That follows the purchase of Blue Point Brewing Co. on Long Island, New York, earlier in the year. It bought Goose Island Beer Co. in Chicago in 2011. InBev also has a one-third share in a Northwest group that produces Red Hook, Widmer and Kona beers.

Anheuser-Busch and Elysian say the deal will bring the brewer's popular beers — most notably Immortal IPA — to a larger audience. The deal includes Elysian's brewery business and its four Seattle brewpubs. It is expected to close by the end of the first quarter.

"Throughout our journey we've been focused on brewing a portfolio of both classic and groundbreaking beers and supporting innovation and camaraderie in the beer industry," Dick Cantwell, Elysian co-founder and head brewer, said. "By joining with Anheuser-Busch we'll be able to take the next steps to bring that energy and commitment to a larger audience."

Elysian was founded in 1995 by Cantwell along with partners Joe Bisacca and David Buhler, who will stay on following the acquisition.

The company is the fastest-growing brewery in Washington state. It sold more than 50,000 barrels of beer in 2014, with Immortal IPA accounting for more than a quarter of the company's total volume.

It also makes a beer called Loser Pale Ale, which says "Corporate Beer Still Sucks" on its packaging. The beer celebrates Seattle-based independent music label Sub Pop Records and the line is a nod to the "Corporate Magazines Still Suck" T-shirt Nirvana's Kurt Cobain once wore the cover of Rolling Stone.

Cantwell acknowledges that now the joke has another layer, but says the Elysian will keep brewing Loser Pale Ale after the acquisition is complete. The founders say they recognize some fans may be upset by their decision to sell to Anheuser-Busch, but say little will change.

"We have some loyal fans that are questioning it, but we are hoping they will take a breath ... and see that what is still in the glass is amazing," Buhler said.

Elysian's beer is distributed in 11 states in the U.S. as well as Canada, Taiwan, Australia and Japan.