Ninkasi Brewing Co. of Eugene, whose flagship beer Total Domination led it to become the nation’s 35th largest craft brewery and Oregon’s third-highest seller, has sold a majority ownership stake to Legacy Breweries, a new business venture that plans to use acquisitions to create craft hubs in the United States.
Legacy is led by Don Bryant, the former head of Washington state-based hop supplier Yakima Chief. Bryant told industry publication Brewbound the venture plans to purchase two more “Ninkasi-sized” breweries in the Midwest and eastern United States to establish “brewing hubs.” Legacy would then look to buy 10 to 15 smaller breweries in those areas, creating better production and packaging capabilities and raw-material access.
Details of the deal, including financial terms, were not disclosed. Legacy is backed by two sources of capital, according to Brewbound: a family office called Blue Ocean and EPR Properties, a publicly held specialty real estate investment trust that has $6.8 billion worth of investments.
Nikos Ridge, who with partner Jamie Floyd co-founded Ninkasi in 2006, told Brewbound he will continue as CEO of Ninkasi, which shipped more than 90,000 barrels last year. He said the new venture’s long-term goal is to identify owners interested in selling all or part of their independent craft breweries.
“I think the ideal partner for us would be someone who is stronger in areas where we are not as developed,” he told Brewbound.
Ridge has fervently kept Ninkasi independent and has criticized other craft breweries for selling to corporations such as Anheuser-Busch InBev or MillerCoors.
In a statement last week about the deal, Ridge said: “Ninkasi has discussed numerous partnership opportunities over the years that didn’t quite fit our vision, but with the support of Legacy and EPR, we felt that this was the right opportunity and will help us develop into the next powerful independent craft brewery platform.”
Ridge defended the move as significantly different from selling to a global conglomerate.
“I think selling out to someone that has a vested interest in destroying craft beer and spends 10’s of millions of dollars on a national discussion about how (bad) or not (bad) corn is, is a lot different from a partner who comes in and wants to work with us to build a coalition of craft brewers to leverage the strengths that we’ve built at Ninkasi over the years,” Ridge told Portland beer-industry blog The New School.
Two years ago, Ridge told The Oregonian he couldn’t see selling to a megacorporation but recognized why some would. He acknowledged the industry was evolving and becoming more cutthroat.
“I 100 percent believe in everyone’s right to make their own decisions and do what’s right for them,” Ridge said.
In Oregon, breweries owned all or in part by large corporations include Widmer Brothers Brewing, which is minority owned by AB InBev; 10 Barrel Brewing of Bend, which sold to AB InBev in 2014; and Hop Valley Brewing of Springfield, which in 2016 sold a majority stake to MillerCoors.