Perhaps they were on a break, but now Anheuser-Busch InBev has returned to acquiring American craft breweries.
It had been two years since AB InBev purchased Wicked Weed back in May 2017. But the world’s largest beer manufacturer announced yesterday that they had acquired Cleveland’s Platform Beer Co.., a transaction that is expected to close in the third quarter.
According to Brewbound, Platform Beer Co. co-founder Paul Benner said the Ohio craft brewery had begun “exploring different investment mechanisms” about six months ago in order to continue the company’s upward growth trajectory.
In the end, Benner said he and co-founder Justin Carson were drawn to the “autonomy and independence” that Anheuser-Busch provides its founders in the day-to-day decisions of its acquired craft brands.
“As we became more educated on what that partnership actually looks like, it became more and more clear this was the best option for us for the short-term and the long-term as a company,” he said.
By selling to Anheuser-Busch, Platform will be able to provide additional resources to upgrade its facilities and offer employees with additional benefits — such as improved medical, dental, vision, 401K match, and parental leave — and other professional development opportunities, Benner said.
“We want to have a place that people love to work,” he added. “These are really important cogs in that, and we’ve never been able to offer some of those resources, and now we can.”
Marcelo “Mika” Michaelis, president of Anheuser-Busch’s Brewers Collective, said that Anheuser-Busch was attracted to Platform’s geographical location, its founders, and their “data driven” strategic approach and diverse portfolio of brands — which range from barrel-aged beers to kettle sours to IPAs to hard seltzers.
“Not being able to have a complement to our portfolio with a local craft brewery was kind of a gap,” he explained.
When asked if the acquisition of Platform is a sign of future craft brewery acquisitions, Michaelis declined to answer.
As for Platform, the company will end its self-distribution business in Ohio — where about 90 percent of its volume is sold — and join Anheuser-Busch’s wholesaler network in the state. Although Platform is ending its self-distribution business, the company won’t be laying off any employees.
And Anheuser-Busch will be able to help Platform complete a pair of expansion projects that are currently underway. The first is a dedicated sour beer facility called the “Phunkenship,” which is expected to open in about three months. And the second is a 10-barrel brewery and tasting room in Pittsburgh, which is slated to open in the first quarter of 2020.
“All of these projects and future projects are made a lot easier by having a partner that is able to provide resources where it makes sense,” Benner said.
Benner addressed comments on social media that Platform was a brewery that was “built to sell.” He said “absolutely not,” and then pointed to the company’s roots as a neighborhood brewery that produced 91 barrels of beer in its first year.
“The aspirations were not very high,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve taken it very seriously. It’s not a hobby for us. We always wanted to grow a great brand, a great business. That means you need to have a great product, great branding, great message, great employees. As you do that, you realize we’re doing the right things and making good decisions, we’re becoming a very attractive partner for somebody like Anheuser-Busch, without necessarily knowing it.”
As a result, Plaform is joining Anheuser-Busch’s Brewers Collective of acquired breweries — such as Wicked Weed, Goose Island, 10 Barrel, Elysian, and Golden Road, among others — and that will allow the brewery to “leave a legacy as a company,” Benner said.
“We feel like this partnership is going to allow us to be a brewery that’s around for decades,” he added. “It’s going to be a transformative and iconic brand here in the state of Ohio.”
Benner went on to say that the transaction is not necessarily indicative of national expansion. He explained that Platform will continue to expand “responsibly” within its current regional geographic footprint.
In agreeement, Michaelis also added “The footprint that they have right now is enough for us to have a good amount of time growing.”
Regardless, now that Platform is joining Anheuser-Busch the company will no longer be certified as a small and independent craft brewer as defined by the Brewers Association. But Benner said he’s alright with losing certification.
“We still have incredibly passionate people making really interesting creative beers,” he said. “To me, that’s craft beer. We obviously won’t fall into that definition by the BA, and that’s okay. But we hope that our customers who have loved our product up to this point recognize — and we’ll prove to them — that it’s the same high quality and it’s only going to get better.”
About Platform Beer Co.
Platform Beer Co. is a micro brewery that opened in 2014 with tasting room locations in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Ohio. The brewery’s production location in Cleveland, Ohio produces cans and kegs for distribution in Ohio and select markets outside of the state.