The hits keep coming for Anheuser-Busch.
Just a couple of months after Bud Light ruined its reputation with an ill-advised partnership with Dylan Mulvaney, the stock continues to plummet, sales are in the toilet, and no end appears to be in sight.
Now, the founders of one of the brands in AB’s craft beer portfolio have repurchased the brewery from the flailing company.
Appalachian Mountain Brewery, a North Carolina company founded in 2011 by cousins Nathan Kelischek and Chris Zieber was sold to AB in 2021 and officially joined their beer portfolio. After the sale, the cousins remained involved in brewery operations but have decided they have seen enough and are cutting ties with the foundering multinational brewer.
The cousins said:
“We’re grateful to have spent the last two years as active founders within A-B’s craft portfolio,” the business partners shared.
Kelischek and Zieber added, “We will be shifting our focus immediately on growing our local team, opening our new taproom in Mills River, North Carolina.”
The North Carolina business partners said they have opened a new tap room in Asheville and will continue to own and operate their original location in Boone, North Carolina.
The original founders of Appalachian Mountain Brewery have brought back the craft brewery from Anheuser-Busch InBev.@AMBrewery was acquired by Craft Brew Alliance in 2018, which was later bought by AB InBev in 2020.@abinbevhttps://t.co/KIl8BlDetV pic.twitter.com/Gmcku3vnIV
— JustDrinks (@Just_Drinks) May 19, 2023
It is unclear if they bought the business back simply because they want to cut ties with AB, or because they want to grow their local brand.
Opening a taproom in the booming Ashville, North Carolina, area makes good sense. Ashville is exploding as a tourist area, and hipsters love nothing more than local craft beer.
It is also possible that the craft beer bubble is about to burst, and AB was more than happy to cut a deal. There is almost market saturation in the craft beer space, and people are starting to realize their favorite “high-end” beer is actually just another big, corporate product.
A big part of the craft boom was the local, intimate feel from drinking something either brewed in your town or in small batches. When AB began snapping up independent breweries, they likely thought they were just adding to their portfolio but now are realizing that they might have gotten ahead of themselves.
According to Washington Beer Blog:
You know the old idiom about the dog that caught the car? Maybe this story is about the car that caught the dog.
The High End Division is the name ABI applies to its stable of once-independent breweries like Elysian, Goose Island, Golden Road, Four Peaks, and several others. In February, ABI shuttered one of its acquired-craft breweries, Ohio-based Platform Beer Company. That same month, it laid off an undisclosed number of employees at some of its other High End breweries.
So, it could be a case of AB being willing and eager to dump a brewery back on its founders, or it could be the founders were embarrassed by the Bud Light fiasco and are getting ahead of more sales fallout since more people are learning exactly how many beers are under the AB umbrella.
Regardless, the optics are bad for a company that is desperately in need of good publicity.
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