Stone Brewing Was Just Sold To This Massive Japanese Beer Company

Since its foundation in 1996 the Stone Brewing company has been a symbol of the independent spirit that was central to the American craft brewing movement (via Brewbound). Now, it has entered into a "membership interest purchase agreement" with Sapporo Holding, the parent company of Sapporo Beer, to be sold in a deal valued at $165 million.

Stone had previously resisted selling out to large brewing companies similar to Sapporo in the past (via Brewbound). The credo, "pledging to never, ever, sell out to the man." was a staple of the company's press releases until January 2020. Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch even filmed a pseudo-manifesto explaining the value of independent craft brewing entitled, "Why We Have Chosen Not to Sell Out to Big Beer." Several independent brewers had "sold out" to Anheuser Busch and Molson Coors around 2015, 2016, and apparently compelled Koch to assert Stone's independence (via Vine Pair).

Since then, Stone has become wrapped up in a trademark infringement lawsuit against Molson Coors, and seen a downturn in sales as well. These issues coupled with a pending 2023 repayment date to investor VMG/Hillhouse likely forced the brewery to reconsider its position (via Brewbound).

Sapporo Holdings plans to expand in U.S.

According to Brewbound, the deal is expected to close sometime in August with Stone Brewing being divided into the new subsidiary Stone Holdings.

Sapporo Holdings Ltd. says that this purchase is in line with their plans for growth in the United States (via Brewbound).

"This acquisition puts the resources and legacy of the largest Asian beer brand in America together with one of the most innovative and recognized craft beer brands in the world. It's a perfect fusion of east meets west that is an ideal marriage for Sapporo's long-term growth strategy in the U.S.," said Sapporo U.S.A. chairman Kenny Sadai in the release, per Brewbound.

Koch released a statement regarding the sale, and his departure from the company. In it, he muses on what he'll do moving forward and explains some of the reasoning behind the decision. He says that he believes he may not be the best person to lead the company into the future, and that it comes down to Stone's survival.

"I've run the calculus every which way (over and over in my head for years now), and this is the most pragmatic decision to ensure this beautiful thing I care so much about has a future."