Top Stories of the Year – So Far

It has been an exceptionally busy first half of the year in the specialty beer business. After a slow non-news January, February started out with the major announcement that Pyramid Breweries acquired Portland Brewing. And from then on, the news just kept on pouring. The following top stories were reported in full detail in BEERWeek, the weekly emailed newsletter from, covering trends, news and analysis of the specialty beer category. To find out more about BEERWeek, go to:


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PYRAMID BUYS PORTLAND BREWING: In one of the most significant developments in the domestic craft category in many years, Washington-based Pyramid Breweries announces that it will acquire the brewing and brewery-restaurant operation of Portland Brewing for $4.2 million. The deal makes Pyramid the third largest craft brewer on the West Coast, behind only Sierra Nevada Brewing and Redhook Ale Brewery.

REDHOOK AND WIDMER JOIN TOGETHER IN MARKETING VENTURE: Widmer Brothers Brewing in Oregon and Redhook Ale Brewery in Washington announce an agreement to form a joint venture to manage the sales and marketing of both the Widmer Brothers and Redhook Ale beer portfolios in the Western United States. The new company, Craft Brands Alliance is formed as a separate entity from either brewing company.

UTAH 0.05% DUI BILL GETS UNANIMOUS APPROVAL: Utah, already noted for having some of the strictest alcohol-beverage regulations in the U.S., unanimously passes legislation that lowers the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level for a second drunken driving stop to 0.05% for those with children in the car.

COSTCO CHALLENGES THREE-TIER SYSTEM: Warehouse-retailer Costco, based in Issaquah, Washington, files suit against the Washington State Liquor Control Board to remove a number of three-tier regulations, one of which mandates that retailers purchase alcoholic beverages from wholesale distributors, rather than directly from the manufacturers. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District court, also challenges Washington State’s price-posting and cash law.

MARTIN KELLY RESIGNS AS CEO OF PYRAMID BREWERIES: Martin Kelly, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Pyramid Breweries announces his resignation. George Hancock, former CEO of Pyramid returns to the company as Chairman and to oversee the daily operations of the company. No permanent replacement has yet to be announced.

MICRO-DISTILLERS CONFERENCE WELL ATTENDED: The first ever Small Distillers Conference, organized by pioneer brewpub guru Bill Owens takes place in the San Francisco Bay area to over 100 attendees. Talks focus on start-up, marketing and distilling techniques.


INTERBREW AND AMBEV MERGE TO CREATE WORLDS LARGEST BREWER: The $11.4 billion merger of Belgium’s Interbrew with Brazilian drinks group Companhia de Bebidas das Americas, better known by its abbreviated moniker AmBev, creates the world’s largest brewing group by volume (Anheuser-Busch still holds the top revenue position). The combined group is called InterbrewAmBev, and now owns 14% of the global beer market share with combined revenues of about $11.9 billion.

BAA AND DRAUGHT BEER GUILD TO CREATE RETAIL CERTIFICATION PROGRAM: The Brewers’ Association of America and the Draught Beer Guild announce an agreement to work cooperatively on a Draught Beer Retail Certification Program. The two organizations state that the program will give retailers the educational tools they need to achieve consistent, high quality draft beer dispense. The BAA will play an advocacy role in the program while the DBG will assume a technical role.

GAMBRINUS ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR BERKELEY BREWERY: The Gambrinus Co. announces it will form a subsidiary, called Trumer Brauerei, to produce Trumer Pils, an acclaimed Austrian pilsner. It will be brewed at the former Golden Pacific brewery in Berkeley, California, which Gambrinus purchased last year.


AOB REPORTS CRAFT CATEGORY UP 3.4% IN ’03: The domestic craft beer industry saw a 3.4 percent growth in production for 2003, according to figures gathered and released by the Association of Brewers.

CRAFT BREWERS CONFERENCE ONE OF THE ‘BEST EVER’: In one of the most vibrant Craft Brewers Conference in many years, small brewers gathered in San Diego to revel amongst news of a second year in a row of strong category growth.

SPECIALTY BEER DISTRIBUTORS MEET FOR FIRST TIME: Taking place just prior to the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego, the Specialty Distributors Roundtable and Conference is attended by over 40 individuals from self-distributing breweries and independent specialty-brand distributors.


ANHEUSER-BUSCH EXTENDS DEAL WITH REDHOOK: Redhook Ale Brewery and Anheuser-Busch restructured their distribution agreement, ending concerns about the future of the Washington-based craft brewer. Under the new 20-year agreement, Anheuser-Busch’s stake in Redhook will rise from 29.8% to 34%. Redhook also will pay Anheuser-Busch more to distribute its products, and it will pay $2 million in cash to A-B.

SUPREME COURT WADES INTO INTERSTATE WINE ISSUE: The Supreme Court agreed to decide if states can ban direct shipments of wine to consumers from out-of-state wineries. Ultimately, the decision could also affect smaller breweries that hope to sell directly to consumers, bypassing traditional distribution channels.


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