After a few years in which it may have seemed to the casual observer as if the era of brewery acquisitions had passed us by, buyouts seem to be back on the menu. Following several years of focusing internally, both AB InBev (Ohio’s Platform Beer Co. ) and Molson Coors have made some moves, with the latter announcing today its acquisition of the Detroit-based Atwater Brewery. Not to be forgotten in the hubbub is the recent acquisition of Ballast Point as well by the upstart (but well-moneyed) ownership of small Illinois brewery Kings & Convicts, which we highlighted as further obscuring the value of the Brewers Association label of “craft brewer.”
Today, however, it’s Molson Coors making the headlines, via its craft division Tenth and Blake Beer Co. Their acquisition of Atwater hands them the fourth-largest (former) craft brewery in the beer-rich state of Michigan, which produced more than 23,000 barrels in 2019. That would be down precipitously from the brand’s high of more than 48,000 barrels in 2015, suggesting that perhaps Tenth and Blake saw an opportunity to pounce on a flagging brand. Naturally, though, that’s not the way you spin the reasoning behind an acquisition, as Tenth and Blake leadership point to the hole it helps them fill in the Eastern Great Lakes region.
“Atwater has been a staple and a leader in the Michigan craft community for more than two decades, and we’re thrilled to have them join Tenth and Blake,” said Paul Verdu, vice president of Tenth and Blake in a statement. “Our priority is to make sure their beer is enjoyed by consumers throughout their core markets and eventually across other core Great Lakes states.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, as has become increasingly common in brewery acquisitions. Atwater, meanwhile, was originally founded in Detroit’s Rivertown district in 1997 as the Atwater Block Brewery, located directly across the street from the non-operational Stroh’s brewery in Detroit. Molson Coors says it’s known for “modern ales” such as wheat ale Dirty Blonde and the Vanilla Java Porter, but many beer fans will recall the brewery for its many German-style lagers over the years. The company also recently launched a hard seltzer brand, which one can’t help but wonder was a major driving force for Molson Coors, which could be eyeing a national expansion for that brand. Atwater is currently owned by Mark Rieth, who became an investor in 2002 and purchased the rest of the company in 2005, and operates three taprooms in Detroit, Grosse Pointe Park and Grand Rapids.
“Today is a great day. It’s a big day for me personally and for our employees and our brand,” said Rieth in a statement. “We’re really excited to partner with Tenth and Blake and Molson Coors, which will help us take Atwater to the next level. For Atwater to continue to grow, it will require both capital and brewing expertise. Tenth and Blake brings both, which makes them the ideal strategic partner to help us continue to live our mantra ‘Born in Detroit. Raised Everywhere.’”
Tenth and Blake has not acquired a U.S. craft brewery since it went on a spending spree in 2016, acquiring Revolver Brewing, Hop Valley Brewing Co. and Terrapin Beer Co. The company also owns Saint Archer Brewing, AC Golden Brewing and Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. in its overall portfolio.