Partnership aims to help craft brewers compete with large commercial bottlers.
Craft beer veterans have joined forces with a California-based funding partner to create a company to give craft brewers the clout needed to compete with the commercial bottlers. Former CEO of Boston’s Harpoon Brewery, Rich Doyle, has partnered with San Francisco private equity firm Friedman Fleischer & Lowe (FFL) to form Enjoy Beer and has assumed the role of president and board chairman. Joining Doyle at the company are Jessica Jones (chief marketing officer and director of strategy) and Adam McQueen (director of customer engagement). Jones was, until early April 2015, the chief operating officer for Oregon-based Ninkasi Beer. McQueen most recently worked with Doyle at Harpoon where he headed up the digital and social marketing for the brand.
The goal of Enjoy Beer is to maintain the advantages of local craft breweries while providing the marketing, distribution, and merchandising muscle of a true nationwide company. Midsized craft brewers are increasingly caught in a difficult position behind the large, often multinational corporate breweries such as Anheuser-Busch InBev with their multi-million dollar marketing and distribution budgets.
The new company almost immediately announced its first partnership. On April 7, Enjoy Beer announced that it formed a partnership with Louisiana-based Abita, among the largest craft breweries in the country (ranked in the top 25 by the Brewer’s Association in 2014). Abita had been growing rapidly, rising to #15 in the Brewer’s Association volume rankings for 2013. Growth constraints reportedly resulted in only a 3% growth for 2014 and the corresponding drop to 24th that same year.
In addition, Abita has just completed a $30 million dollar expansion to boost its approximately 160,000 barrel capacity to 400,000 barrels. The brewery, established in 1986, was purchased by David Blossman in 1996. As part of the partnership, Blossman will remain as president of Abita and has become a member of the Enjoy Beer board along with Doyle and members of FFL.
Despite the market pressures, Blossman claims he wasn’t interested in selling his company. As he explained to The Times-Picayune “We turned down lots of other opportunities because we wanted to remain rooted in our local community and culture.” However, when Doyle approached him, he made the decision to join Enjoy Beer. “We’re not losing our heart and soul,” he says.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, nor did Enjoy Beer comment about other potential acquisition targets. But, according to Doyle, the goal for the company is to grow by working with 4 or 5 other craft breweries by 2020 and to eventually take the company public in that same time frame.