Lion buys US craft brewer, New Belgium

Australian food and beverage company Lion is expanding its craft beverages portfolio with the purchase of the fourth-largest craft brewer in the US, New Belgium Brewing.

Lion’s global craft beverages division, Lion Little World Beverages, announced the acquisition on Tuesday, saying the deal will be finalised by the end of the calendar year.

New Belgium Brewing creates beer and wood-aged sours such as
Fat Tire Amber Ale and Voodoo Ranger IPA in the US. It has two state-of-the-art brewing facilities in Fort Collins, Colorado and Asheville, North Carolina and a national distribution platform.

“We’re excited to welcome New Belgium Brewing into the Lion fold and take a significant step forward in the largest craft beer market in the world. We’re confident that our shared values and commitment to purpose and culture will provide the foundation for a great partnership in the US,” said Lion CEO Stuart Irvine.

Lion’s parent company, Japanese beverage giant Kirin, has entrusted the Australian business to lead the global craft beer strategy. Irvine said the new deal is a milestone in the international expansion beyond Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Kim Jordan, co-founder of New Belgium Brewing said the company is known for its “dedication to innovation and excellence in beer”.

“We’ve been pushing the boundaries of beer innovation as pioneers for almost three decades. Lion Little World Beverages are brewers’ brewers and we have really felt their commitment to this ancient craft. We’re absolutely excited about helping to build a collective of breweries – each with their own vibe – who share the same commitment to delighting beer drinkers with great beer, great businesses, and great collaboration among us,” she said.

Lion Little World Beverages said it will retain New Belgium’s identity, culture and brand as a leader in craft beer and its headquarters will remain in Fort Collins, Colorado. Steve Fechheimer will continue as CEO and the management team will remain, while Jordan will be an advisor alongside other founders.

The business will no longer be employee-owned following the sale, AAP reported.

Employees will receive $100,000 of retirement money, “with some receiving significantly greater amounts,” Jordan said in an open letter.

The business became partially employee-owned in 2000, with Jordan and her family holding a controlling interest in the company, before changing to full employee ownership in 2012.

New Belgium and Lion would not disclose the sale price or other terms of the deal.

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