Kirin’s New Belgium Brewing to buy Constellation Brands facility

New Belgium Brewing, the US beer maker owned by Japan’s Kirin Holdings, has struck a deal for a Constellation Brands production facility.

The Voodoo Ranger brand owner is to acquire Constellation’s brewery in Daleville in the US state of Virginia. The financial terms of the deal, expected to be completed in May, were not disclosed.

Just Drinks thinks: This acquisition shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, given New Belgium’s owner Kirin late last year said it was eyeing up additional production in North America. New Belgium now has production facilities in Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia, which is just as well given the brewery (and its line of Voodoo Ranger IPAs) continues to defy broader gloomy market trends in craft beer.

Crucially, however, the purchase of the Daleville facility – which Constellation built in 2016 to produce beers for its then-flagship craft beer brand Ballast Point – gives New Belgium significant capability to increase production of ‘beyond beer’ products. Indeed, in its announcement of this purchase, New Belgium Brewing said it would “explore ways to leverage the facility’s FMB, seltzer and RTD capabilities”.  If craft continues to be the sick man of beer, this investment will represent a future-proofing of Kirin’s business in North America.

Go deeper: The changing flavour of US craft-beer M&A

Pernod Ricard makes flavoured whisk(e)y play with Skrewball investment

Pernod Ricard has struck a deal to acquire a majority stake in US flavoured whisk(e)y brand Skrewball.

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The deal, announced on 21 March, will see the peanut butter-flavoured spirit join Jameson Orange in Pernod Ricard’s flavoured whisk(e)y roster. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Just Drinks thinks: Whatever your thoughts on peanut butter-flavoured whisk(e)y (and this writer remains decidedly skeptical), its impossible to argue with the success of Skrewball Whiskey to date. The brand, founded by husband-and-wife duo Brittany and Steven Yeng quickly scaled the brand to national distribution, enabling them to survive the headwinds of the Covid-19 pandemic relatively unscathed, and have now reaped the (presumably very large) financial rewards.

The question for Pernod Ricard to answer now, however, is can the Paris-headquartered spirits major maintain the brand’s runaway momentum, and ensure the concept translates on a global scale? Flavoured whiskey as a category is on a roll – but the cautionary tale of flavoured vodka looms large in the rearview mirror; will Skrewball’s flame burn bright and fade fast, or can Pernod Ricard’s expertise ensure we’re going nutty for it for years to come?

Read more: Skrewball’s unusual back story offers cheer – but can Pernod Ricard drive brand further?

Edrington takes 50% stake in Spain’s Grupo Estévez via The Macallan brand

Scottish beverage brand owner The Edrington Group has acquired a 50% stake in Spanish wine and brandy maker Grupo Estévez.

The deal, announced alongside a partnership between Grupo Estévez and Edrington’s The Macallan brand, will see the Scotch maker deepen its investment in its own supply chain.

Just Drinks thinks: This shrewd play from Edrington helps secure a long-term supply of sherry-seasoned wine casks for the jewel in its crown whilst also giving Grupo Estévez a route to market for its Valdespino sherry and aperitif brand. It feels like a win for both parties.

While it is somewhat unusual to see a business conduct and announce an acquisition through one of its brands, in this instance Edrington’s decision to frame its acquisition of Grupo Estévez as a deal made by The Macallan makes sense. The brand is undoubtedly Edrington’s most high profile, and its fondness of sherry casks for finishing its higher-end whiskies is renowned. In this context, buying into its own supply chain by acquiring one of Spain’s largest and most prominent wine and brandy makers seems like sensible forward planning.

Heineken given go-ahead for Distell Group takeover

South Africa’s Competition Tribunal has granted Heineken approval to take control of Distell Group and Namibia Breweries.

The news paves the way for Heineken to create a new business in Africa, in which it will own majority control. The Amstel brand owner said it expects to invest €2.4bn in return for a 65% stake in the newly formed company. 

Just Drinks thinks: After much to-ing and fro-ing, and some rather undignified mud-slinging from both Heineken and Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Dutch brewer finally got its go-ahead to proceed with reshaping its business in Africa. Although it’ll need to offload its Strongbow brand in Africa in order to appease competition authorities, Heineken will be feeling quite smug after getting the green light without Distell having to sell off its own cider brands, something South Africa Breweries (SAB) – Anheuser-Busch InBev’s subsidiary in the country – had wanted to happen.

The deal sets up the continent as the next big battleground in the beer category, but also meaningfully stretches Heineken well beyond its core purpose of making and selling beer. Distell’s presence in wine and spirits could either be a help or a hinderance to CEO Dolf van den Brink realising his long-term vision for Heineken, depending on your viewpoint. It’ll be intriguing to see whether the Amstel brewer keeps hold of the brands and assets, or looks to sell them off to offset the €2.4bn its investing in the newco it is creating in Africa.

Other notable deals this month:

Importer Empson USA invests in Italy’s Jankara Winery

Two rye whiskey brands in latest round of Pronghorn angel investments

Grind acquires Bottleshot Coffee on back of GBP15m investment round

Diageo sells Tyku sake brand to US importer Shaw-Ross

Sierra Nevada makes energy-drinks play with Riot Energy investment

KIV Spirits snaps up US Tequila brand Ambhar

Germany authorities ‘clears sale of Brandenburger Urstromquelle to Red Bull’v

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits strikes deal for distributor Webb Banks

Motocross athlete Carey Hart to acquire House Beer