Well, I must say this is a first. Since the acquisition of Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co. in 2011, Anheuser-Busch InBev has bought out ten more craft breweries … but they’ve all at least been breweries I’ve heard of in the past. So imagine my surprise, waking up this morning, to find that ABI had purchased a brewery by the name of “Pirate Life.” The hell?
As it turns out, there’s a reasonable cause for this—Pirate Life is a very small, Australian brewery. Known for their hop-forward offerings in particular, Pirate Life has apparently been a quickly rising star on the Australian scene in the only two years since their founding in 2015, primarily focusing on pale ale and IPA. And now they’re owned by the largest brewing conglomerate in the world.
This sale is a departure for ABI in more ways than one. Pirate Life is considerably smaller and younger than most of the well-established regional U.S. craft breweries (Four Peaks, Blue Point, Breckenridge, etc.) that the conglomerate has acquired in the past, and obviously located on a different hemisphere from most of them. It also flies counter to the company’s September assertion that after a large round of layoffs from their crafty High End division, they would “no longer focus on brewery acquisitions.” One has to assume that ABI intends to turn Pirate Life into a MAJOR brand, which would mean vast expansion and eventual conquering of both the Australian and international markets. How long until we can expect to see Pirate Life beers on store shelves in the U.S.?
“The reality is we have run out of capacity at Hindmarsh,” said Pirate Life Co-Founder and chief brewer Jared Proudfoot of the acquisition and forthcoming expansion. “With this partnership we’re in a fortunate position to upgrade to a new, bigger brewery while dedicating Hindmarsh to innovate and craft a whole range of new styles to make sure we keep pushing the boundaries and evolving. We’ve always believed in and understood what brewers like AB InBev can contribute to the craft beer world with their experience, knowledge, funding and expertise in every aspect of the industry. Good beer is good beer and we believe that our beers are only going to get better.”
Jan Craps, President of AB InBev’s “Asia Pacific South Zone,” also commented on what made the brand an attractive acquisition for the mega-corporation.
“With its focus on canned packaging that gives consumers fresh, well-crafted beers and consistent quality, Pirate Life has resonated with Australian beer drinkers who want something different,” Craps said. “Pirate Life’s brand is premised on a carefree and relaxed attitude and the ability to create great beers. This approach can only be enhanced with a new brewery, access to ingredients and shared knowledge from other AB InBev brewers in Australia and elsewhere.”