Craft brewery employee ownership grows as alternative to selling out -- Denver Business Journal

Though it was billed as a celebration of employee ownership, the gathering of brewers at The Corner Office bar in Denver on Thursday might better have been called the “anti-Anheuser Busch” movement.

After Anheuser Busch-InBev announced this week that it had acquired Golden Road Brewing of Los Angeles — its third purchase of a high-profile craft brewery in the past year — many in the industry began asking who might be next.

The Belgium-based beermaker, the world’s largest, now owns former craft breweries in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles, and many industry leaders and observers say they anticipate AB-InBev will make an effort to acquire a locally owned brewery in at least one more major city soon.

“I would be surprised if you didn’t see AB-InBev make a play for a major Denver or Colorado brewery,” said Kyle Leingang, an associate with Dorsey & Whitney LLP of Costa Mesa, California, who specializes in mergers and acquisitions in the brewing industry.

The trick, however, is that three of the five largest craft breweries in this state are now governed by employee stock-ownership plans (or ESOPs) that give invested workers at the company the power to decide the breweries’ future rather than allow a small group of owners to sell or keep it.

New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins has been employee-owned for many years, and Left Hand Brewing of Longmont and Odell Brewing of Fort Collins both transitioned into ESOP companies this summer.

To read the article by Ed Sealover in its entitreity, we encourage you to visit this the DBJ website.