Stone Brewing, one of largest craft beer brands and 18th overall in size in the United States, has reached an agreement with Sapporo U.S.A, American subsidiary of the namesake Japanese brewíng company for a sale of the company.
The purchase at a reported price of USD 165 million is expected to close in August 2022.
Stone Brewing, once an icon of the American craft beer movement, has suffered many setbacks in recent years.
In 2019, the company and its co-founder Greg Koch had to admit its failure and sell its newly-built brewery in Berlin, Germany after less than three years (inside.beer, 5.4.2019)
Like many other craft breweries in the United States, Stone Brewing experienced dwindling sales during the pandemic. In addition, Stone Brewing’s flagship beer Stone IPA saw a nosedive in sales since MillerCoors, as the company was called at that time, rebranded its economy beer brand Keystone Light in April 2017 and emphasized the word "Stone" on the label, thus overtly copying the Stone trademark. (inside.beer, 12.2.2018) Stone took Molson Coors to court and finally, in March, after four years, Molson Coors was sentenced to pay USD 56 million to Stone Brewing for illegal use of Stone's registered, Stone trademark. (inside.beer, 26.3.2022)
In March, Stone Brewing CEO Maria Stipp admitted that she saw problems for her company to meet the due date in June 2023 to pay back USD 464 million to investment firm VMG/Hillhouse and she considered selling the company. (inside.beer, 17.3.2022)
Sapporo, fourth-largestbeer maker in Japan and maker of the number one selling Asian beer brand in the United States Sapporo Premium, intends to produce its Sapporo-branded beers for U.S. distribution in Stone’s two breweries, in Escondido, California and Richmond, Virginia. Building on existing capabilities, and supported by planned capital investments, Sapporo intends to brew 360,000 barrels (422.000 hl) in the U.S. by the end of 2024. This will essentially double Stone Brewing’s current production and provide ample opportunities for growth for both brands.
Two years ago, Sapporo announced it was planning to build a new brewery in the USA by the end of 2024. Other options included acquiring an existing brewery or expanding contract manufacturing in the US. (inside.beer, 12.3.2021)
The Tokyo-based beverage maker has been importing beer to the US since 1964 and has become a popular offering at restaurants. Sapporo U.S.A was established in 1984 and since then Sapporo Premium has been the #1 selling Asian beer in the United States. The company already owns the Sleeman Brewery in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and Sapporo Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin, U.S. In 2017, Sapporo purchased California-based craft beer maker Anchor Brewing, San Francisco, California. (inside.beer, 4.8.2017)
The acquisition of Stone Brewing “continues the legacy of great brands coming together under the Sapporo banner”, said Sapporo and Stone in a joint press release. Anchor Brewing operations will remain unchanged.
“We approached Stone Brewing seeking a partner for our growth plans in the U.S, and we quickly recognized they were an ideal partner with bi-coastal brewing capacity, loyal fans, superb management, shared cultural values, and commitment to the highest quality standards,” said Kenny Sadai, Chairman, Sapporo U.S.A.
“This acquisition puts the resources and legacy of the largest Asian beer brand in America together with one of the most innovative and recognized craft beer brands in the world. It’s a perfect fusion of east meets west that is an ideal marriage for Sapporo’s long-term growth strategy in the U.S.”
Under the agreement, Stone Brewing will continue to brew its craft beers at the two breweries, as well as operate its seven Tap Rooms and World Bistro & Gardens destinations with existing branding, management and workforce under the Sapporo umbrella. Best known for its award-winning beers like Stone IPA, Stone Delicious IPA and Stone Buenaveza Salt & Lime Lager, Stone will continue to brew with the same recipes and team as before.
“This is the right next chapter for Stone Brewing,” said Greg Koch, Co-Founder & Executive Chairman of Stone Brewing. “For 26 years, our amazing team has worked tirelessly to brew beers that have set trends and redefined expectations. To have the interest of a company like Sapporo in continuing the Stone story is a testament to the great beers we’ve created and will continue to create for our fans across the globe.”
“I am thrilled that we have the opportunity to join forces with Sapporo,” said Maria Stipp, CEO of Stone Brewing. “This unique partnership allows us to preserve the Stone legacy that our fans know and love and will add exponential opportunities for growth, from production to more investment in people, equipment, sales, and marketing.”
Stone Distributing Co., Stone Brewing’s distribution business, is not part of the sale, and will become an independent company under current ownership, maintaining its current leadership of day-to-day operations. Stone Distributing is a leading distributor in the nation’s largest craft market and will continue to service Southern California with a portfolio of 42 distinctive craft brands, including Stone Brewing. As a separate entity from Stone Brewing, it will operate as it does today and with increased investment in its brands, people and future.