A group consisting of New Belgium Brewing Company (Fort Collins, Colorado), Oud Beersel (Beersel, Belgium) and Elysian Brewing Co. Founder Dick Cantwell has come forward today to announce that it has entered into an agreement to purchase San Francisco’s Magnolia Brewing as part of a bankruptcy proceeding.
A long-standing icon in San Francisco’s beer scene, Magnolia Brewing was established in 1997 by Dave McLean at the corner of Haight and Masonic in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. This pub and brewery quickly became a “neighborhood institution” by “serving artisanal pub food and producing a mainly English-style lineup of beers from a brewery in the basement.” Although the brewery has produced “an array of award-winning beers” over the last 20 years, Magnolia is best known for its Proving Ground IPA and Kalifornia Kolsch. The brewery expanded in 2014 with the addition of The Smokestack, “a barbecue restaurant attached to a 30-barrel production brewery, in the Dogpatch neighborhood of the city.” Unfortunately, Magnolia Brewing started experiencing financial issues in 2015 “because of construction delays with Smokestack and slower than anticipated development in the neighborhood, which led the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2015.”
The newly-formed partnership that has acquired Magnolia Brewing “will be a majority-owned subsidiary of New Belgium, with Elysian Founder Dick Cantwell and Belgian lambic producer Oud Beersel as minority partners.” This partnership plans to “continue to operate both Magnolia locations with existing staff and brands.” One of the biggest changes will see Cantwell taking the helm of brewing operations while “working alongside Magnolia founder Dave McLean, who will be an employee of the partnership.” This marks Cantwell’s first brewing job since leaving Elysian Brewing Co. in 2015 after it was acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev.
“I’m tremendously excited to be back in the beer business and looking forward to working with the team at Magnolia to develop new beers and new ideas,” said Cantwell. “This project is the natural evolution of a longstanding strategy of collaboration between myself, New Belgium and Oud Beersel.”
The most exciting news about this acquisition just might be Oud Beersel’s role in this whole thing. Playing the role of a “contributing experimenter”, Oud Beersel plans to eventually ship “containers of its traditionally-produced and spontaneously fermented beers for blending with Magnolia-crafted beers.” This is quite a big deal because in order to “be called lambic the beer must be produced in Belgium, and by shipping lambic to San Francisco the world’s first dedicated lambic blendery outside of Belgium will be established.” This project will also include the installation of a coolship and “the wooden aging vessels for which both New Belgium and Oud Beersel are known.” Once installation is completed, it is expected that New Belgium will “ship beer to San Francisco for blending from its Fort Collins, Colorado brewery.”
Subject to “customary closing conditions”, this deal is expected to be completed in September. If all goes to plan, this acquisition has the potential to be a massive, game-changing move in American craft beer. More details are sure to surface as time goes on, and we will update you just as soon as we get that information. Stay tuned. Prost!