The incredible rise and fall of San Diego, California’s Ballast Point Brewing notched a new chapter yesterday when it was sold to Chicago-based Kings & Convicts Brewing. Ballast Point started out as a homebrew shop in 1992 and rose to become a sought-after brand, its Sculpin IPA one of the best-selling craft beers in the country. Ballast Point practically opened up the fruited/citrus IPA category with Grapefruit Sculpin, then sold to Constellation Brands for a cartoonish $1 billion dollars in 2015.
The amount that Constellation paid for BP was seen as overblown when it happened, and now seems like a total disaster. BP co-founder/brewmaster Yusef Cherney left the company after the buyout and founded Cutwater Spirits, then sold that to Anheuser-Busch earlier this year. Constellation immediately began expanding Ballast Point, but didn’t seem to have any idea what it was doing. BP is now available in all 50 states, but is down from nearly 500,000 barrels of beer a year to around 200K. But compare that to the buyer – Kings & Convicts – and it’s even more startling. K & C has only been open for 2 years and is distributed in only 2 states, with less than 1K barrels sold in 2019.
The price that Kings & Convicts paid for Ballast Point is not going to be disclosed. But you can bet it’s a small fraction of the price that Constellation paid for it, and they were probably trying to off-load the company in a fire sale.
This purchase comes with all but one of BP’s production facilities and brewpubs, sans a production brewery in Virginia that should be interesting to see what Constellation does with. That’s four locations in California, with Downtown Disney/Anaheim, Long Beach, Miramar, and Little Italy, and a brand new brewpub located in Chicago’s Fulton Market District, and yes, the OG homebrewing supply and tasting room in San Diego’s Linda Vista neighborhood.
Can Kings & Convicts rehab the Ballast Point brand? It will be difficult, but they plan to hire a new sales and marketing team and grow the brand in all 50 states. This also means we are going to see Kings & Convicts beers brewed out of the Ballast Point locations, so we will all soon becoming acquainted with that has turned into one of the biggest brewery debuts of the last decade.
“We’re excited to welcome the team at Ballast Point into the Kings & Convicts family,” said Brendan Watters, Kings & Convicts’ chief executive officer. “As craft brewers, we have long admired the quality and spirit of the Ballast Point brand and team. Their best-in-class brewing standards will remain unchanged, delivering the same high-quality, award-winning beer the company has become known for over the years. Our goal is to leverage Ballast Point’s deep know-how, talented and passionate employee base, and outstanding operating team to grow both Ballast Point and Kings & Convicts together.”
Kings & Convicts also says it is keeping on Ballast Point’s approximate 560 employees. K & C is a privately held company ran by Englishman, COO and head brewer, Chris Bradley, and Aussie and CEO, Brendan Watters. It’s unclear where they get all of their money but it’s odd to say the least that a banner ad on the website proclaims “Don’ let the facts get in the way of a good story,” which could be the title of Donald Trump’s biography.
More about Kings & Convicts from the press release: Kings & Convicts brews ales and lagers out of its 5,000 sq. ft. Highwood brewery and taproom in the North Shore of Chicago, which are available on draft and in cans at the taproom and in bars and restaurants across Chicagoland and Wisconsin. With many years between them separately operating and managing successful global businesses in the hospitality, finance, GPS and mobile technology sectors, Chris and Brendan connected over their mutual love for good craft beer. The duo announced plans earlier this year to open a second location of Kings & Convicts in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, approximately 30 miles from Milwaukee. The 48,000 sq. ft. destination brewery will house a large production brewhouse, taproom, restaurant and event space and is expected to open in Fall 2020.
“We look forward to engaging the community and getting a connection back to the local markets through our distributor partners, on and off-premise retailers and our dedicated salesforce ambassadors,” said Chris Bradley, Kings & Convicts’ chief operating officer. “Ballast Point has well-established R&D programs and we want to continue fostering that innovation and experimentation by listening to our consumers and serving specialty and local beers in each market.”
About Kings & Convicts Brewing Co. Kings & Convicts is a privately held company headquartered in Highwood, IL, in the North Shore of Chicago. Conceived by an Englishman and an Aussie, Kings & Convicts started brewing for the public in 2017 and was built on the freedom of anti-authority and the spirit of fellowship. They brew ales and lagers inspired by the tales of convicts, royalty and the undercurrent of American gangsters. Every beer tells a story. Kings & Convicts’ beer is available on draft and in cans at its taproom and in bars and restaurants across Chicagoland and southern Wisconsin. For more information, follow along on Instagram and Facebook and visit www.kingsandconvicts.com.
About Ballast Point Brewing Co. What started in 1996 as a small group of homebrewers who simply wanted to make great beer evolved into the team of adventurers known today as Ballast Point. From bringing a hoppy twist to a porter or adding four types of malt to its amber ale, to creating the breakthrough gold-medal winning Sculpin IPA, the San Diego-based company is known for adding its touch and asking if there’s a better way. Now an internationally recognized leader in the craft brewing industry with 6 brewery locations in California and Chicago, the company makes over 50 styles of beer and distributes to all 50 states and 17 countries internationally. For more information, visit www.ballastpoint.com.
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.