USA: News Belgium leads consortium to rescue Magnolia Brewing

A consortium consisting of the eight-largest and still privately owned US brewery New Belgium Brewing, former co-founder and owner of Elysian Brewing Dick Cantwell and Belgium brewery Oud Beersel have bought San Francisco’s Magnolia Brewing out of bankruptcy in a $2.7 million deal.

The San Francisco based brewery was founded in 1997, but after expanding with Smokestack barbecue restaurant in 2014, the company faced financial difficulties and filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2015. Still the company continued to operate. “We’re profitable from our operations, but have a lot of debt that we need to restructure,” said Magnolia founder and owner Dave McLean at that time.

Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing, which has recently hired Steve Fechheimer as new CEO after a nine-month-long search (, 18.07.2017), will hold a majority stake in the new partnership, with Cantwell and Oud Beersel being minority partners. Kim Jordan, New Belgium co-founder and executive chair said there were no plans for turning Magnolia Brewing’s two San Francisco locations into New Belgium brewpubs or to mix the brands. He said it would be rather like “brewing with friends.” New Belgium said in a press statement that "the partnership will continue to operate both Magnolia locations with existing staff and brands." The sale is expected to be completed in September.

Dick Cantwell, who founded Elysian Brewing Co. in Seattle in 1995 and left the company just three months after selling it to AB InBev in 2015, will return to brewing at Magnolia Brewing. "Cantwell will head up brewing operations, working alongside Magnolia founder Dave McLean, who will be an employee of the partnership. It will be Dick’s first brewing gig since leaving Elysian," said New Belgium.

"I'm tremendously excited to be back in the beer business and looking forward to working with the team at Magnolia to develop new beers and new ideas," said Cantwell. "This project is the natural evolution of a long-standing strategy of collaboration between myself, New Belgium and Oud Beersel."

Oud Beersel, located in Beersel, a small village close to Brussels/Belgium, is an artisanal lambic brewery that already cooperates for many years with New Belgium in a project called Transatlantique Kriek. This is “a beer produced over several years with Oud Beersel and Brouerij Boon, wherein beer was shipped from Belgium for blending with New Belgium wood-aged beers," explained New Belgium. Oud Beersel plans to do the same with Magnolia Brewing . By definition a lambic must be produced in Belgium, so by sending Belgium lambic to San Francisco, "the world’s first dedicated lambic blendery outside of Belgium will be established,” describes New Belgium the new project.

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