Anheuser-Busch Inbev, the world’s largest beer company, has announced its acquisition of another craft brewer. Devils Backbone Brewing Company, Virginia’s highest-volume craft beer producer, will be the latest addition to ABI’s “High End” business unit, which contains such brands as Stella Artois and Shock Top, in addition to (former) craft breweries like Goose Island, Elysian, Golden Road and Breckenridge.
Devils Backbone opened in 2008 and quickly became known for standout beers, like its signature Vienna Lager as well as Eight Point IPA, Skull Crushing Ape, Kilt Flasher and Cattywompus along with its Peak Series (higher-ABV) offerings. The company has won impressive awards over the years and has maintained a mission of promoting outdoor adventures, seen from the naming conventions held in its two locations: Basecamp in Roseland, Virginia, and Outpost in Lexington, Virginia.
In recent interviews, Devils Backbone cofounder Steve Crandall has related an increasingly familiar tale of a craft brewery with aspirations of explosive growth finding traditional bank lending, which worked in its earlier stages, to be restrictive and unfeasible in funding larger-scale capital enhancements. This pushed the company to hire a beverage advisory firm and begin actively researching alternative investment opportunities. Crandall indicated that his company was originally staunchly opposed to any involvement of private equity “because you don’t have control over where that is heading.”
As big beer continues to pad its strategic portfolios with the more successful and willing of craft breweries, die-hard beer fans with a habit of being outraged at each acquisition will pretty much just need to pull it together. Whether it’s a Bud-Miller-Coors conglomerate acquisition, a private equity firm or some other announcement of a new regional partnership, delineating which circumstance equates to which type of reaction is already overwhelming, but at a certain point you have to hand the reins over, continue to trust your brewers and say, “All right, I’ll have a Skull Crushing Ape.”