Drinks with Pat: Playing with the big boys

Pat Evans

In 2015, Perrin Brewing Company no longer was a West Michigan-owned company.

That was because it was swallowed up by CANarchy, a private equity-backed cooperative of breweries led by Colorado brewing staple Oskar Blues Brewery. The other breweries in the co-op are a fine group, including Florida’s Cigar City — a delightful array of beers we can enjoy in West Michigan largely in part because of its relationship with Perrin Brewing.

During a time when breweries were being swallowed up by the big bad antagonist of the craft beer world, Anheuser-Busch, the idea of a cooperative wasn’t that unsettling. But as in most cases — especially my own field of journalism — private equity is in it for one thing: money.

So earlier this month when news broke that CANarchy was acquired by energy drink maker Monster for $330 million, it wasn’t all that surprising. What will be interesting is how that beverage company handles owning a bunch of high-quality breweries.

It certainly will be an interesting evolution to watch. From the looks of it, by reading alcohol industry media, it appears it might be Monster just wanted to get into the alcohol world at a fairly decent price.

An interesting note Good Beer Hunting pointed out, Perrin IRI-tracked chain retail sales dropped 28.9% in 2021. Oskar Blues, the second-largest of the collective, was down 20.4%.

The biggest of the bunch, Cigar City, was just down 2.1%.

Founders minus a founder

News broke last week that Founders Brewing Company’s co-founder Mike Stevens was stepping down from his full-time role with the company as it enters its 25th year.

Both Stevens and co-founder Dave Engbers are staples of the Michigan, and even national, beer scene so the step is a significant signal that Founders certainly is moving into a new chapter of its existence.

That existence, of course, already has changed significantly n the time since Spanish brewery Mahou San Miguel purchased 30% of the Grand Rapids brewery in 2014. The Spanish company later purchased another 60% in 2019, leaving Stevens and Engbers with 5% each.

Stevens must have other interests, as noted recently in his investment in The Finnish Long Drink.

Engbers is staying put for now, and with plenty change, he’ll try to keep the brewery grounded to its 1997 start.

What we’re drinking

At the moment, craft distilling staple WhistlePig’s Old World Rye is sipping nice.

A hankering for a gin and tonic the other day — normally reserved in my life for the summers — led me to Gray Whale Gin, a delicious California gin with notes of mint and almond beyond the typical juniper.

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