Oskar Blues, Canarchy breweries, sold to Monster Energy Drinks Maker

Oskar Blues, Canarchy breweries, sold to Monster Energy Drinks Maker

There would always be an exit strategy. This is how big business works. On January 12, Monster Beverage Corp. announced that it has acquired the Canarchy Craft Brewery Collective, which includes Longmont-based Oskar Blues Brewing and five other craft breweries.

The listed energy beverage maker will enter the liquor market for $ 330 million in cash, according to a company statement. The deal is just the latest to involve the country’s largest or best-known craft beer brands. In November, Japanese beverage giant Kirin bought Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery and merged with Colorado-based New Belgium, while Canadian cannabis company Tilray added two San Diego breweries, Green Flash and Alpine, to its Sweetwater Brewing division.

Sales do not include the restaurants associated with Canarchy, including Oskar Blues-labeled eateries in Colorado, according to Monster.

“The team at Canarchy is excited to join Monster,” Canarchy CEO Tony Short said in the same statement. “We look forward to leveraging the combined expertise of Monster and Canarchy to further strengthen our current alcoholic product offering, expand our product portfolio to meet our customers’ ever-changing needs and to grow our business.”

click to enlarge Dale Katechis (left) pours beer at GABF in 2017. - OSKAR BLUES

Dale Katechis (left) pours beer at GABF in 2017.

Oskar Blues

Short will continue with the company, which Monster said will “operate independently, maintain its own organizational structure and team,” and continue to oversee the breweries. The transaction is expected to be completed in the first three months of this year and is subject to regulatory approval.

Oskar Blues was founded by Dale Katechis as a restaurant in Lyons in 1997, before adding a brewery to the operation in 2002 and becoming the first craft brewery in the United States to know its beer – something that was seen as heresy at the time. The company grew rapidly and eventually opened a huge production facility and taproom in Longmont, where it embarked on an aggressive distribution and sales plan. Its liberal image, bold beer and subtle marijuana references made it very popular inside and outside the state.

In 2015, a Boston private equity firm called Fireman Capital Partners quietly acquired a majority stake in Oskar Blues, adding the financial support that helped the brewery expand even more; it now has manufacturing facilities in North Carolina and Texas in addition to Colorado. Then, in 2017, Fireman (who already owned two Utah breweries) bought two more beers, Perrin and Cigar City, and set up Canarchy to oversee them. Over the next few years, Canarchy added Deep Ellum Brewing and Three Weavers Brewing, which it later sold back to its original owners.

click to enlarge The original Oskar Blues in Lyons.  - OSKAR BLUES

The original Oskar Blues in Lyons.

Oskar Blues

Katechis could not be immediately reached for comment.

The initiatives sparked a heated debate inside the craft brewing industry about what it means to be an independent company, whether independence matters when it comes to beer, and whether big money would have a negative effect on the direction of the industry. Oskar Blues was able to remain a member of the Brewers Association, the trade group for independent breweries, as it still met the non-profit organization’s definition of independence – meaning it was not owned by another non-independent alcohol producer. On the surface, the Monster deal does not seem to change that situation.

“This transaction gives us a springboard from which we can enter the alcoholic beverages sector,” Monsters co-CEO Hilton Schlosberg said in a statement. “The acquisition will provide us with a fully in-place infrastructure, including people, distribution and licensing, along with development expertise for alcoholic beverages and production capabilities in this industry.”

Oskar Blues is planning more activities this year to honor the twentieth anniversary of preserving its first beer back in 2002. It remains to be seen what will happen to the Oskar Blues restaurants in Lyons, Longmont, Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs.

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