Good Beer Hunting

French Co-Op Agrial Acquires Two Beers Brewing and Seattle Cider Co.

With most of the beer industry busy mulling over Anheuser-Busch InBev’s mammoth takeover of SABMiller, a smaller, but not less-global, deal has been made official. On Tuesday, Two Beers Brewing announced it, along with its upstart Seattle Cider Co. brand, had been acquired by Agrial, a French farmer-run co-op. In an open letter published to Two Beers’ website, Joel VandenBrink, CEO and founder of both Two Beers and Seattle Cider, wrote of Agrial: “They share the same values we do. They roll up their sleeves, dig in the dirt, harvest and create like an arm-linked community of entrepreneurs.”

In a press statement announcing the deal, the two sides laid bare what each is getting out of the new partnership. Namely, it will enable Two Beers and Seattle Cider to bolster their distribution outreach in developing craft beer and cider markets abroad, while providing necessary capital to embark on expansion projects at both the brewery and cidery (which operate independently from one another) at home. Agrial, meanwhile, will be afforded the opportunity to gain access to the U.S. market, where it will distribute its own cider brand, Louis Raison.
“The amazing growth and expansion we’ve seen over the past three years has taken us by surprise,” added VandenBrink in a news release. “As I looked at where I wanted to take Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing into the future, I knew we would need a partner to be able to achieve our long term goals.”
Aside from that extended distribution reach on both sides, though, this deal symbolizes the arrival of yet another new buyout model for craft breweries to explore.
Per its website, Agrial’s beverage division “is based on the production and collection of approximately 194,000 [tons] of cider apples, of which 80% come from the orchards of its members.” So what we have here is a link in the agricultural chain attaching itself directly to another link at the end of said chain. This wouldn’t be entirely unlike a hop farm buying a brewery, for instance, rather than just selling hops to them. And if VandenBrink’s words are any indication, you can bet that meant something here.
“They are the owners of some of the largest apple orchards in all of Europe, as well as partners with one of the few craft breweries in France,” he wrote in the open letter. “What makes a co-op different from a major corporation is the undying dedication of the farmers who collectively share in its success, and the greater good they mutually serve. ‘Ownership’ means something very special.”
Buyouts are clearly no longer defined by Big Beer throwing money at Small Beer. The proliferation of private equity, employee stock ownership plans, and craft on craft acquisitions in the space prove as much. Now, propelled by the apple of all things, the road to expansion—or even just to getting rich—has widened further.
—Dave Eisenberg
A Letter From Our Founder, Joel VandenBrink [Seattle Cider]