Buyouts, Purchases, and Partnerships

The big news in Southern California of late seems to be the entry of large breweries into the craft beer realm via acquisition. In September MillerCoors announced purchase of controlling interest in San Diego’s Saint Archer Brewing Company. Saint Archer was started by a talented group of sporting industry entrepreneurs, with kettles helmed by the award-winning brewing team of Yiga Miyashiro and Kim Lutz. Next up, AB InBev, the world conglomerate that owns Budweiser, announced in late September its buyout plans for Los Angeles-based micro Golden Road Brewing, an offer co-founder Meg Gill said she and co-founder Tony Yanow could not refuse. Latest, was the mid-November news from Constellation Brands, owner of a number of wineries, spirits producers and breweries worldwide including Corona & Modelo, that it is paying $1 billion for San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits.

In contrast to many of the takeovers in years past, it appears that these current purchases appear to be more strategic in nature. This would include other recent AB acquisitions of Elysian in Seattle, 10-Barrel in Portland and Goose Island in Chicago; and Heineken’s 50% buy of Lagunitas. Instead of post-purchase dumbing-down of the product, it appears that a more hands-off approach to the actual brewing may be taking place. Instead of messing up the product, it is this reporter’s observation/opinion that these larger players are attempting to capture more of the craft market through growing these brands, perhaps with the hope of strategically controlling these craft markets.

Most of these breweries report “business as usual,” while benefitting from capital infusion that will assist them with expanding to more markets. Golden Road’s massive brewery, taproom, restaurant and production facility, just across the street from Anaheim Stadium, is continuing as planned…plus! The tap room is now open. In the coming year we will see build-out of the adjoining restaurant and 15-barrel brewery, followed by a 50-barrel production brewery that will also be housed in the complex.

It will be interesting to watch and see as things continue to unfold in light of AB’s pending purchase of SAB Miller, current owner of MillerCoors.

Abnormal

What started as a winery, expanded into a restaurant/tap house, and later added a brewery? If it’s in Rancho Bernardo that would be Abnormal Winery, The Cork and Craft and Abnormal Beer Company. Since April of 2015, brewer Derek Gallanosa has been crafting technical and tasteful ales on Abnormal’s brewhouse, viewable behind the glass expansion which backs the bar. In addition to spot-on porters and stouts, in the spirit of what San Diego does best, Derek produces some top notch hoppy beers of varying strength, ranging from his hoppy session to a well-balanced double. Gallanosa also sports some creative Saisons.

The in-house restaurant looks to provide a select variety of dishes that would pair well with house wines, house beers and the extensive guest tap list. Derek continues to work his recipes in an attempt to perfect and expand on flavor profiles and provide guests with a satisfying experience.

Cali Uncorked

Gallanosa was spotted at the inaugural Cali Uncorked in mid-November. Cali Uncorked unfolded uncorked in Santiago Canyon’s Oak Canyon Park near Irvine Lake with unlimited tastings from over 40 breweries and 25 wineries. This combination festival included beer and wine tastings, a complete lineup of music and comedy, gourmet food and food trucks. What started in its first hour as low-key and beer festival-typical gradually built momentum as the day progressed. Crowds were at capacity as the tasting piece came to a close and the evening entertainment commenced. This brand new event was a collaborative effort between Brew HA HA Productions and SGE. It was presented by Harrah’s Resort of Southern California.

Beer Garden

Beer Garden at Torrey Pines closed out the 2015 San Diego Beer Week with impressive pairings of food and beer. Twelve of San Diego’s finest chefs each teamed with two breweries to plan and prepare one dish that would pair with a beer from each brewer. Standouts included the foie gras bratwurst, warm potato salad and fig mustard from Chef Paul McCabe of the Town & Country Hotel. It paired very nicely with Stone’s Matt’s Burning Rosids Imperial Cherrywood Saison and Prohibition’s Black Rye Double IPA. Chef Philip Esteban from The Cork and Craft provided a number of dishes during the event, including an incredible rosemary ice cream. Karl Strauss’ Wild Ride Red Trolley aged in oak with blackberries enhanced its flavor while the Abnormal Beer Company Mostra Mocha Stout provided a cleansing contrast. The calamari-rock shrimp risotto with smoked tomato beurre blanc prepared by Jeffrey Strauss and team from Pampelmousse Grille was a melding compliment to both the spicy Baltic Pepper Porter from On-The-Tracks as well as Breakwater’s Rye Dawn.