Owners say 10 Barrel will not change

Reaction mixed to purchase of Bend brewery by Anheuser-Busch

By Joseph Ditzler, The Bulletin, @josefditzler

Nothing will change at Bend-based 10 Barrel Brewing Co. once it becomes the property of Anheuser-Busch and part of a multinational beverage company, the brewery’s partners said Wednesday.

Anheuser-Busch, the beverage giant based in St. Louis, announced Wednesday morning that it would acquire 10 Barrel in a deal expected to close by year’s end.

“The most important thing is this is business as usual,” said 10 Barrel co-founder Jeremy Cox. Chris Cox, Jeremy’s brother, will continue to oversee the brewery. Garrett Wales will still run the restaurant, Jeremy Cox said. “The only thing that changes is that we will have bosses in Chicago,” he said.

The sale price for the local brewery, which expects to sell 40,000 barrels of its products this year, was not disclosed. The agreement covers the Bend production brewery and brewpubs in Bend, Boise and one in Portland, expected to open early next year.

Not everyone cheered the sale. On social media, as many decried the sale as congratulated the 10 Barrel partners for their good fortune.

Larry Sidor, a partner at Crux Fermentation Project and former Deschutes Brewery brewmaster, said Wednesday he was still processing news of the 10 Barrel sale.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he said. “We’re all family, and we kind of support each other. It feels like one of our family members has died.”

Gary Fish, founder of Deschutes Brewery, said: “It’s an interesting time; it really is. I wish those guys the best.”

Anheuser-Busch owns two other craft breweries in the U.S.: Goose Island Beer Co., of Chicago, and Blue Point Brewing Co., of Patchogue, New York, said Andy Goeler, CEO of Anheuser-Busch’s craft division.

“Anheuser-Busch has been more active in the world of craft beers because of the way consumers are enjoying those kinds of beers,” Goeler said. “From Anheuser-Busch’s perspective, the first thing that drew us to these guys (10 Barrel) is the portfolio of beers. Their beers are amazing.”

10 Barrel benefits from the sale by tapping into Anheuser-Busch expertise in areas such as brewing efficiencies and distribution, Jeremy Cox said.

The approximately 200 employees of 10 Barrel, about 150 of them in Bend, received the news this morning, with an “overall very positive” response, Wales said. “They’re really excited,” he said. “Nobody loses a job. If anything, we’ll add more jobs.”

10 Barrel will not be adding Anheuser-Busch beverages at its pubs in Boise and Bend or the one soon to open in Portland, the partners said. Jimmy Seifrit will remain head of brewing operations at 10 Barrel.

The brewery has no immediate plans to expand or widen its product distribution beyond Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

News of the sale dominated the local conversation on social media. Among Twitter users, reaction was mixed.

The Coxes and Wales said the bottom line is the operation stays in Bend, run by the same people.

“The brewery is staying right here,” Wales said. “It’s a big company, but we’re dealing with it on a local level just like we have been.”

The founders of three other breweries in Bend said news of the 10 Barrel sale surprised them, but only barely. Offers to buy a successful brewery are nothing new. Selling, as the owners of 10 Barrel did, is the exception, they said.

“There have been plenty of approaches. I probably get 10 or 15 a week, mostly cold calls or spam,” said Fish. “It’s a popular segment of the industry to be in, and, as such, it’s attracting capital.”

Ty Barnett, co-owner of Good Life Brewing Co., said the fear of losing control over the quality of beer the company produces would prevent him from selling. “That for me would be the biggest resistance,” he said.

Both men said they would not sell if given the choice. Fish said he has never entertained an offer to sell, but he could not say what the future holds. The business has been locally owned for more than 26 years, he said.

Sidor said a craft brewery ultimately cedes something to accountants when it’s sold to a multinational company like Anheuser-Busch.

“When making beer for me is all about money, I’ll retire,” he said.

Some local beer drinkers declared on social media Wednesday that they’d drunk their last Apocalypse; Fish said time will tell whether loyalty for the brand falters.

“Some people want to buy from what they perceive is a small, local company, and if they perceive that has changed, they may act on that desire,” he said. “But this is Oregon, this is Central Oregon, and a lot of people are going to say a lot of stuff. I don’t know that it will change their behavior.”

Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser, is the U.S. arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev, a multinational company with headquarters in Belgium, according to its website. It controls 42 percent of the U.S. beer market.

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

Did you know?

Anheuser-Busch Companies operates 13 breweries in the United States, with the first opening in St. Louis in 1852.

The alcoholic beverages produced by the company include Budweiser, Stella Artois, Beck’s, Boddingtons, Bass Pale Ale, Bud Light, Busch Beer, Landshark Lager, Michelob, Natural Light, Shock Top, Goose Island, Johnny Appleseed Hard Cider, Kirin and Rolling Rock. The company also produces nonalcoholic beverages such as O’Douls, malt liquors such as King Cobra and Hurricane, and flavored malt beverages such as Bacardi Silver and Tequiza.

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