Latest Trend in Craft Brewing: Selling Out?

Is craft brew going corporate? What's been going on this week? It seems like every other day there's been a report of a brewery being picked up by investors or consolidating with another.

First, Independent Breweries United Inc., which includes Magic Hat, Pyramid, and MacTarnahan's, was sold to North American Breweries, a "national platform for investments and growth in the beer and malt beverage industries for KPS Capital Partners, LP," reports the Burlington Free Press. NAB CEO Richard Lozyniak said in a press release, "Our plan is to continue to grow these brands while maintaining a commitment to their heritage and superior quality."

Second, the sale of San Francisco's godfather of craft brewing, Anchor Brewing, was "officially completed last week," reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Keith Greggor, the CEO of the new company, made a statement to the Chronicle that the company is "going to increase the capacity of the brewery and expand the spirit and distilling side of the business without losing sight of quality." Will it really be possible to expand production and maintain the incredibly high standards that previous owner Fritz Maytag had in place? Let's hope so.

Third, Mendocino Brewing Co., a historic brand in its own right known for Red Tail Ale, acquired Butte Creek Brewing Co.'s organic brands of beer.

Feeling a little like a 13-year-old punk rock kid who just found out that his favorite band signed to a major label (oh, the angst!), I called Julia Herz, craft beer program director at the Brewers Association, to see if she thought this was all a coincidence or was really an industry trend. She assured me it was the former. "It's not a mass shift. Out of 1,600 breweries, you're definitely going to see shifts, changes, ebbs and flows. But the majority, over 90 percent, are independent. You aren't going to see a mass exodus of them being gobbled up. Independence is a core of what they do."