Craft brewery corporate takeovers are more commonplace than craft beer fans would prefer and today, another buyout has been added to the growing list. But it’s the type of buyout less likely to result in hard feelings and product boycotts than others.
Mass Bay Brewing, the corporate banner that flies over Boston’s Harpoon Brewery, just announced it is acquiring Clown Shoes Brewing. Clown Shoes, the company known for its eccentric bomber- bottle brews, is a Massachusetts brewery as well, founded in 2009 in Ipswich. Dan Kenary, Mass Bay Brewing CEO and Co-Founder, says the acquisition will help bring Clown Shoes beer to even greater levels of success.
“The Clown Shoes team shares our passion for brewing excellent beer and their irreverent, boldly-flavored takes on classics have earned them a loyal following,” said Kenary. “We see tremendous potential for growth both regionally and nationally and are excited to work with Gregg and his team to take Clown Shoes even further.”
Clown Shoes Brewing was founded by Gregg Berman. The beer that started it all was Hoppy Feet Black IPA and its success in the Boston area convinced Berman to continue with more beers and he aimed largely for experimental takes on popular styles. Clown Shoes products caught on quickly and in 2011, distribution began outside of the home turf of Massachusetts. This year, Clown Shoes projects to brew over 13,000 barrels of beer and its products are now sold in 28 different states as well as 5 international markets. Berman sees the buyout arrangement as one that will easily benefit Clown Shoes in the long run and continue the brand’s success.
“Harpoon and Clown Shoes are both fiercely loyal to our brands, to independent craft brewing, and to our employees,” commented Berman. “I’ve been a fan of Harpoon for a long time and it’s very gratifying for me that our team will get to work alongside the expert brewers at Mass Bay Brewing to grow Clown Shoes and get our beer into the hands of more beer drinkers”
Mass Bay Brewing and its Harpoon employees are part of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and now that Clown Shoes has been brought into the fold, its existing employees will have an equal opportunity to become owners of the Mass Bay Brewing business. This employee- owned arrangement is different from what you find at the typical brewery and it will help Clown Shoes maintain a status closer to that of a partnership, which is far different from the all- encompassing buyouts perpetrated by Anheuser- Busch, Miller, Heineken, etc. that have left craft beer fans fuming. Kenary says the belief in brewing independence and the employee ownership model will be great for all parties involved.
“The craft industry has changed a lot since we opened our doors in ’86,” said Kenary. “The Clown Shoes team has an approach to brewing and selling great beer that is very different than ours, but their belief in independent brewing dovetails perfectly with the stake we have planted around employee ownership. We plan to have a lot of fun and success working together, enjoying a few beers along the way.”