Brewery sales are back in the news these days, but there is a flip to the familiar script of larger companies buying smaller ones. A spate of announcements from breweries, like Appalachian Mountain Brewery and Funky Buddha Brewing Co., that had been sold to companies like Anheuser-Busch InBev and Constellation Brands revealed that the founders of those companies had repurchased or regained control of the breweries.
Those two breweries made their announcements in May 2023 and in doing so joined the ranks of others that sold to larger companies or conglomerates only to later break away. A notable breweries in that group is Three Weavers, which was purchased by Fireman Capitol, the then-owners of Canarchy, in 2018 and repurchased by founder Lynn Weaver in 2021.
On a recent episode of the Brewer to Brewer podcast Regan Long of Local Brewing Company interviewed Shaun O’Sullivan, the brewer and founder of 21st Amendment Brewery. Long asked about the 2017 minority purchase of the California-based brewery by The Brooklyn Brewery and O’Sullivan revealed that 21st Amendment was “no longer partners” with Brooklyn.
Regan Long: You’ve had so many experiences like opening your pub, the contract brewing experience, and then opening up a much larger facility. You’ve also had a number of partnerships. Can you tell us a little bit about the experience and how and why the Brooklyn Brewery partnership came about. That’s something that I wanted to personally know more about.
Shaun O’Sullivan: We’re no longer partners with Brooklyn Brewery. But what happened with that is there’s safety in numbers and so we saw an opportunity. Brooklyn saw an opportunity to combine a few brands under their roof. We were still owned, they had a minority interest in us and there was another brewery involved, Funk Werks out of Fort Collins, Colorado.
The idea was essentially a sales platform. So this took our meager little sales team and blew it up because everyone that was selling Brooklyn started selling 21st Amendment and Funk Werks. So we had a lot of people out there selling our beer, which was great.
Then the other side of it was Brooklyn made some investments, some capital improvement product projects with our brewery, We upgraded our lab, we have a plate and frame filter, souring vessels, and some other things purchased with their investment.
It was working out and we were chugging along and seeing some new opportunities and then COVID happened. We had to pivot and it didn’t make sense to do it anymore. I love the [owners of The Brooklyn Brewery] they are good people but we just decided it was probably best to go back to the what the original arrangement was, with our own team.
Regan Long: I remember that happening, wasn’t really sure of that whole process. It’s amazing to hear about it. Just because sometimes you got to look at those opportunities, kick the tires on it, right? Give it a go and see what happens.
Shaun O’Sullivan: The you have to pivot if the market kind of goes in a certain direction. And I think that’s what happened with that situation. It was like you go in with one idea, and then you see what’s happening, and then you need to reevaluate. And also the market also flipped upside down to just because of COVID. Beer drinking habits changed as well.
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The above transcript was condensed and edited for clarity.