acquisition

Hop Valley Sold to MillerCoors: An Interview with Owner Walter MacBeth

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Hop Valley Everyone's Craft Creative

Last Friday, July 29th, mega beer conglomerate MillerCoors announced its purchase of a majority stake in Eugene, Oregon’s Hop Valley Brewing Co. , via its “craft” brand subsidiary, Tenth and Blake. The news came as normal, with much controversy, but there was also less surprise than usual. Hop Valley has quickly grown to be a major player in Oregon beer and was the fastest growing brewery in Oregon sales numbers last year. Rather than postulate on the sale and what it means, we reached out to Hop Valley partner, Vice President, and now Tenth and Blake board member Walter MacBeth for an interview.

The big question is why? Hop Valley is I believe the fastest Oregon growing brewery of the last year. You don’t seem to be needing any help.

A number of reasons, including timing, future growth potential and synergies. It’s an increasingly competitive craft landscape today and we saw a lot of benefits of aligning with a company that shares our passion for beer and a desire to see their beers enjoyed by more consumers.

What is MillerCoors getting out of the deal and how much of the company does it control?

The partnership gives Tenth and Blake a strong partner in the “IPA/hoppy” beer space in the highest indexing craft market in the US. Hop Valley’s approach is very much like Tenth and Blake’s in that it offers high-quality, innovative craft beers – yet it brings heavy IPA experience which will complement Tenth and Blake’s portfolio.

Tenth and Blake will have a majority interest in Hop Valley, and the management team at Hop Valley will continue to lead the business and retain an ownership interest.

 

 

Will there be board seats or positions for MillerCoors execs?

Yes, there will be board seats available to Tenth and Blake. Current board management will remain in place.

Who will be running the company from here on out?

The Hop Valley management team (Chuck Hare, Jonas Kungys, Trevor Howard, and Walter Macbeth) will continue to run the day to day business, with Ron Howard and Walter Macbeth reporting to Tenth & Blake as Board Members.

When does the sale close?

The transaction is expected to complete in the third quarter of 2016.

Hop-Valley-Brewing-logo

 I think I know the answer here, but what changes can we expect from Hop Valley after the sale?

Business will run as usual after the sale. The Hop Valley team will continue to be creative and brew its beer in Eugene with the same recipes, the same techniques and the same commitment to quality that attracted Tenth and Blake in the first place. 

What can you do now that you could not do before?

First and foremost, this is about growth; job one is expanding the availability of Hop Valley’s great beers to more retailers and consumers in the Pacific Northwest. The Tenth & Blake procurement capabilities will allow us to realize some cost synergies, but at this time our focus is on getting Hop Valley beer to its fans.

Will you disclose at any time how much the MillerCoors investment is?

We cannot disclose the terms of the transaction.

How do you feel about the effects of Hop Valley’s position in the industry, i.e. being excluded from the Brewers Association, the Oregon Brewers Guild, etc.?

We’re focused on continuing to be creative and brew beer with the same recipes, the same techniques, and the same commitment to quality we always have. To us, craft is about care, quality, style, and authenticity.  

Are you at all worried about a local consumer backlash?

While that’s always a concern, we hope that consumers will realize that nothing at Hop Valley is changing in a negative way. Hop Valley will continue to be run by the existing, full management team, brewing the same great beers fans have come to love. 

What are the 5 and 10 year plans for the company?

Job one is to continue to fuel the strong growth in Hop Valley’s current markets. Tenth and Blake and Hop Valley management will determine future expansion opportunities when the time is right.


 

So to recap, Mr. Macbeth stuck tightly to the usual statements and promises of little to no change and a focus on making quality beer while expanding distribution. Oftentimes this huge growth after acquisition does not pan out, such as with recent contaminated (sour) batches of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and beers being brewed at contracted breweries across the country. While I respect Hop Valley for making some damn good IPAs and I cannot fault anyone for collecting a big paycheck, Hop Valley is not known for innovative new beers or cutting edge techniques.

Will you still buy Hop Valley?

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

9 Comments

  1. Dr Will

    August 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    That’s one of the most stale interviews I’ve ever read! Is he just trolling? “The Tenth & Blake procurement capabilities will allow us to realize some cost synergies” really??

    The best part is “To us, craft is about care, quality, style and authenticity.” yet the whole thing reads like a PR person getting vetted through their legal council. Makes the 10 Barrel interviews look like vintage Mike Tyson.

    I stopped drinking Hop Valley over a year ago when their expansion lowered their quality, definitely not going back.

  2. Chris

    August 1, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    If Elysian getting bought was a shock this is the exact opposite of that. I haven’t bought their beer for months because the writing was so clearly on the wall and there was nothing really setting them apart besides their availability.

  3. Rob B

    August 1, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Did you have an actual conversation with him, or was this from an e-mail exchange? I’m with Dr Will – the responses read like PR-speak. And who talks about themselves in the third person?

  4. Samurai Artist

    August 1, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    Agreed that the interview answers given are pretty stale and read like PR speak. Unfortunately that’s how they chose to answer after deliberating answers. I was also disappointed in that but I do think it shows how they approach business and the company right?

  5. Tony Campbell

    August 2, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Answers definitely seem to be read of a sheet of paper (verbatim to the press release I read elsewhere). Their mediocre offerings will continue to gather dust on local shelves. Another reason to pass on purchasing Hop Valley beer.

  6. yvette

    August 2, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Nope 🙁

  7. Kate Dyson

    September 20, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    No…won’t buy beer from them…did like a couple of their IPAs…but I’ve found one I like as well…that hasn’t sold out…to the plutonomy…

  8. PC

    October 20, 2016 at 7:08 am

    Sad, very sad.
    Independently operated businesses of every kind are falling into the.. The Vat…of homogeneous, bland goo that MegaCorpsInc. has foisted on the generally ignorant consumer for many decades now. Beer is headed in the same direction as foods. Very soon, ALL..every brand of beer will be processed in one giant central MeGaFactory. Fantasy you say? Maybe you had better take a look at the progression of brand mergers in the last 25-50 yrs. and think about it. This will mark the end of choice, the end of individual taste. Just as has happened in the food…Fude Industry.

  9. Bob

    July 25, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    I’ll never buy their beer again! Ever!!! Sellouts!

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