South Korea: AB InBevs buys local craft brewer

ZX Ventures, AB InBev’s  venture capital fund focused on innovation in and around the beverage industry, has bought craft beer brewery The Hand & Malt Brewing Company in Gyeongi-do Namyang-ju, only 35 minutes from Seoul, South Korea. Founded in August 2013 by Bryan Do, an American expat and former Microsoft employee, the company experienced strong growth in the following years with a decline in the equity position. For a further expansion Do needed a financially strong partner, which he found in ZX Ventures.

The founder and his new partner want to expand production capacity by building a larger factory next to the existing brewery. According to unconfirmed sources the purchase price for 100% of the shares is valued at approximately 10 billion won (US$9.4 million).

Hand & Malt’s experimental brews stand out because of its local ingredients. Its pale ale uses perilla leaves, better known in Korea as “kkaetnip,” instead of hops. Its sour ale K Weisse is made with lactobacillus from kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables.

“We don’t have a craft beer brand that represents Korea yet,” said a spokeswoman at ZX Ventures. “We plan to foster Hand & Malt on a global scale largely because its beer lineup is unique and experimental. We believe the beers with a Korean touch will work internationally.”

For the future the partners want to develop new craft beers using other indigenous ingredients from Korea such as garlic, green pepper and pear.

In the day to day operations The Hand & Malt Brewing Co. is supported by Oriental Brewery, AB InBev’s local unit in South Korea. Just four weeks ago, ZX Ventures acquired a minority stake in California-based wine maker Swish Beverages. (, 13.3.2018) In addition the company manages a portfolio of more than a dozen craft beer breweries and other related businesses around the world.

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