Bell's Brewery announces sale to Australasian beer company as Larry Bell enters retirement

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Junior, Nov 10, 2021.

  1. Junior

    Junior Champion (822) May 23, 2015 Michigan
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    Larry Bell is retiring and selling the brewery to the same company that owns New Belgium.

    Congratulations to Larry!!

    However, I am surprised and a little saddened by this news.

    [ Note from Todd: Read the press release. ]
  2. BigIronH

    BigIronH Savant (956) Oct 31, 2019 Michigan
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    This is awful. Who’s the largest independently owned brewery after Bells?
  3. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (5,427) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

  4. stingray

    stingray Initiate (77) Jun 23, 2005 Wisconsin

    Just got this news via my Bell's email subscription. When he said retirement I thought he was going to fully turn it over to his daughter or something like that. Did not expect this. His letter and the press release make it sound like they're merging with New Belgium, not selling to another party. What's Lion's stake in Bell's now?

    "That’s why this week, Bell’s finalized a sale agreement that will see us join forces with New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado. [...] Under the terms of the deal, I am selling my stake in Bell's to Lion, who acquired Colorado-based New Belgium in 2019." - Larry Bell

    “As a shareholder and board member, I am excited to support the sale of Bell’s to Lion and to join forces with New Belgium." - Laura Bell
    #4 stingray, Nov 10, 2021
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2021
  5. Junior

    Junior Champion (822) May 23, 2015 Michigan
    Society Trader

    In Michigan, it’s New Holland.
  6. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (5,427) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    Same - I thought she was poised to take over the brewery when he decided it was time to step away ...
  7. elNopalero

    elNopalero Poo-Bah (4,133) Oct 14, 2009 California
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    My jaw hit the floor when I read this announcement. I did not see that plot twist coming at all.
  8. o29

    o29 Disciple (300) Sep 29, 2020 Texas
    Society Trader

    Sad day in the world of brewing...
  9. Samlover55

    Samlover55 Champion (813) Oct 8, 2015 New York

    IIRC she was the CEO for a short time and then stepped away.
    Someone help me out here!
    Edit. Here is an article I found.

    Definitely surprising news.
  10. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,867) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    She was CEO for a little more than a year, and stepped down, not sure what she is doing today.

    One other thing to be aware of is that Larry Bell is 63, and has survived two bouts with cancer.
  11. Todd

    Todd Founder (6,510) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Moderator Fest Crew Society Trader

    Here's the press release:

    Bell’s Brewery and New Belgium Brewing Join Forces to Form a New American Craft Beer Leader

    Shared commitment to craft of brewing and human-first approach to business creates new model for industry success and shared prosperity

    COMSTOCK, Mich. (Nov. 10, 2021) –– Today, Bell’s Brewery founder, Larry Bell announced that he has reached an agreement with Lion, an Australian based brewer, for the sale of Bell’s. Lion acquired Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing in 2019. The move will see the Michigan-based craft brewer come together with New Belgium – aligning two great American craft brewers.

    Larry Bell, who founded Bell’s in 1985 and brewed its first beers in a 15-gallon soup kettle, shared the news – and announced his own retirement from the company he turned into a household name – at the company’s annual all-employee event.

    “I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together,” Bell said. “From our wonderful fans, to the amazing team that has helped share our beer with the world, to the ways we’ve been able to invest in causes we believe in – this has been an absolutely incredible journey.”

    “This decision ultimately came down to two determining factors,” Bell said. “First, the folks at New Belgium share our ironclad commitment to the craft of brewing and the community-first way we’ve built our business. Second, this was the right time. I’ve been doing this for more than 36 years and recently battled some serious health issues. I want everyone who loves this company like I do to know we have found a partner that truly values our incredible beer, our culture, and the importance of our roots here in Michigan.”

    The combination of Bell’s and New Belgium places the expanded company at the top of the U.S. craft beer market in sales volume and growth, with an extraordinary lineup of brands including the #1 IPA brand in the U.S., Voodoo Ranger, along with Fat Tire, Two Hearted Ale, and Oberon Ale.

    Bell’s decision to join New Belgium was based on the company’s commitment to the future stewardship of Bell’s iconic beer brands, its dedication to the ongoing successful operations of Bell’s in Comstock, Mich., and Upper Hand in Escanaba, Michigan, and excitement around the opportunity to grow corporate social responsibility initiatives.

    By aligning with New Belgium, Bell’s will expand on its own commitments to coworkers, communities, and customers by adopting many hallmark, human-powered business practices – including seeking B Corporation certification, 100% carbon neutrality by 2030, $1 per barrel philanthropy, and 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index.

    Bell’s fans can expect the same meaningful involvement with the Michigan community, driven by events like Oberon Day and supporting Kalamazoo Pride, which have been core to the company’s vision and values from the beginning.

    “In Bell’s, we see a likeminded group of people dedicated to making the world’s best beer – doing business in a way that improves the wellbeing of the people who power our success,” said New Belgium CEO Steve Fechheimer, a Michigan native and longtime Bell’s drinker. “We couldn’t be happier to welcome the entire Bell’s team. Joining together will immediately strengthen our ability to serve and expand the craft community, deliver more value for our partners, and continue to redefine how business is done in a world facing historic economic, social, and environmental challenges. Personally, I can’t wait to celebrate Oberon Day in 2022!”

    Over its 30 years in business, New Belgium has pioneered a unique ‘human-powered’ business model grounded in the idea that building the most successful and resilient business requires prioritizing the prosperity of coworkers, communities, and customers across the company’s operations. This novel approach has been the foundation for New Belgium’s industry-leading growth and standout ability to reach younger, more diverse beer drinkers. That model will now grow to include Bell’s approximately 550 employees, 500,000-barrel brewery in Comstock, Mich., and beloved brands like Two Hearted, voted the best beer in America multiple times.

    After the sale closes in the coming months, beer drinkers should expect no changes to Bell’s current beers, which are distributed across 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Bell’s Executive Vice President Carrie Yunker, who maintains an 18-year tenure with Bell’s, will continue to lead day-to-day operations for the brand, reporting to Fechheimer and joining the combined company’s leadership team. VP of Operations John Mallett, who has been with Bell’s for over 20 years, will join the leadership team to focus on integrating the two brewing organizations. Bell’s coworkers will keep working primarily out of Kalamazoo, with their breweries operating as usual.

    "As a shareholder and board member, I am excited to support the sale of Bell’s to Lion and to join forces with New Belgium. Our job as owners is to ensure the best future for Bell’s and I believe this step is an important and critical part of our journey to continue the Bell’s legacy long into the future” said Laura Bell, daughter of Larry Bell.

    “We are thrilled to be taking this next step in the United States, bringing these two great names in craft brewing together,” said Matt Tapper, Managing Director of Lion’s global craft beverages business. “We look forward to continuing to support both Bell’s and New Belgium in this next phase of growth.”

  12. superspak

    superspak Poo-Bah (24,828) May 5, 2010 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    It is indeed shocking news, but I am happy that Larry can retire with the peace of mind that his business is secure for time to come. Everyone can choose to only support independent breweries, but the only thing buyouts have done is increase the availability of craft beer(And I use that term loosely Brewers Association :grimacing:). Quality loss is pretty much only an issue with certain sectors of the market(Inbevs larger volume craft brands?), I really haven't seen much of a change elsewhere(BCBS etc). I can already get Two Hearted anywhere I go as it is, so that's certainly not going to change.
    AlcahueteJ, Squire, dcotom and 14 others like this.
  13. Whyteboar

    Whyteboar Champion (859) Jun 7, 2008 Michigan
    Society Trader

    I understand that there are good reasons and have a high regard for Larry. He wouldn’t have done this if he didn’t think it would hurt his staff or brand.

    That said, I still think it sucks.
  14. teal

    teal Initiate (87) May 3, 2012 Wisconsin

    I've asked several places on LinkedIn if the Upper Hand Brewery started by Larry is included. No answers on that yet.

    I bought a stir plate from Bell's homebrew shop some years ago - always been a fan. I hope this ends up being a good thing for all involved.
  15. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,138) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina

    New Bellsgium
    AlcahueteJ, Argail, Daniel-o and 25 others like this.
  16. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,317) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    Well, only if you don't count Geyer Bros./Frankenmuth Brewing Co., which was still brewing 3,000 - 10,000 bbl. a year in the 1980s and was often cited as the smallest US brewery (Anchor having passed it) other than the new microbreweries.

    The much larger brewery in Frankenmuth (w/over 1M bbl. capacity), operated by Carling since the 1950s, was by then owned by Heileman, so not a "Michigan" headquartered brewer. Stroh closed their 7 million barrel capacity Detroit brewery in 1985, but maintained their corporate offices there for many years.

    Not according to the Brewers Association, of course.
    #16 jesskidden, Nov 10, 2021
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2021
    chrismattlin, Foyle, dcotom and 8 others like this.
  17. Uberdachen

    Uberdachen Initiate (24) Jun 21, 2019 Minnesota

    Good for Larry Bell.

    At the same time,
    MrOH, stingray, Roguer and 7 others like this.
  18. Todd

    Todd Founder (6,510) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Moderator Fest Crew Society Trader

    From New Belgium on Twitter:

    And even more on all of this from New Belgium:
  19. Alefflicted

    Alefflicted Initiate (96) Dec 2, 2017 Minnesota

    This very well could be the worst beer related news I've ever read.
  20. jvgoor3786

    jvgoor3786 Poo-Bah (2,200) May 28, 2015 Arkansas
    Society Trader

    Wow. Here's hoping Two Hearted never changes.
  21. FlaviusG

    FlaviusG Initiate (146) Aug 15, 2009 Illinois

    Bell’s Ichiban
  22. beardown2489

    beardown2489 Devotee (461) Oct 5, 2012 Illinois

    This hits like a sledgehammer
  23. teal

    teal Initiate (87) May 3, 2012 Wisconsin

    Per New Belgium's response to my asking - it does include Upper Hand Brewery in Esky.
  24. Beer_Economicus

    Beer_Economicus Crusader (738) Apr 8, 2017 Ohio

    I've said this before, but who could be mad at someone for ultimately getting what I have to imagine is, like, a $100million pay day?

    He gets to enjoy the rest of his life and completely secure his family for the rest of their lives for generations to come.

    Is it selfish for me to mostly care (from a beer standpoint), or rather hope that this means that there is more BA beer delivered wider?

    I suspect this means there will be less variety in the Bell's catalog, but I hope that I am wrong.
  25. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Savant (993) May 3, 2016 Illinois

    Sad to see the end of the Larry Bell era, but really pretty expected at this point. I’ve seen Goose and Lagunitas sell out in Chicago years ago so this seems to be pretty standard for big craft. If it ain’t local, it’s just a matter of time before it is big beer. I guess we can start the clock on Three Floyd’s next.
  26. Beer_Economicus

    Beer_Economicus Crusader (738) Apr 8, 2017 Ohio

    Here's one for someone that dislikes NB:

    New Bellgism.
  27. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (5,427) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    Please, that clock started when they shut down the brewpub due to COVID.
  28. MistaRyte

    MistaRyte Defender (616) Jan 14, 2008 Virginia

    Get ready for Two Hearted Voodoo Ranger
  29. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,138) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina

    ichi bells?
  30. William_Navidson

    William_Navidson Aspirant (278) May 1, 2015 Pennsylvania

    Not particularly surprised or upset by this news generally (this is exactly what we should be expecting all the "mid-major" breweries to be doing), but it's definitely a shame that they had to be sold to Kirin given its connections to Myanmar.

    Bell addressed this in a comment on Facebook, but it still feels slimy and pretty gross. There are probably less bad multinational mega-corporations that are strangling local craft beer options that they could have sold to.

    And apparently the Bell's official announcement avoids any mention of Kirin altogether? Yikes. That's telling.
    #30 William_Navidson, Nov 10, 2021
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2021
  31. Beer_Economicus

    Beer_Economicus Crusader (738) Apr 8, 2017 Ohio

    It’s bad. I don’t even know what NB makes except fat tire and voodoo.
    Shanex and ChicagoJ like this.
  32. pjbear05

    pjbear05 Initiate (136) May 28, 2008 Florida

    The only good I can see of this is wider distribution of Bell's. Good, we could use more and different Bell's products in FL.
    Squire likes this.
  33. keithmurray

    keithmurray Meyvn (1,458) Oct 7, 2009 Connecticut

    Guess I better stock up On The Bell's Amber Ale and Kalamazoo stout before they get taken out of rotation and replaced by some sort of beer on the IPA spectrum.
  34. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,317) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    But, wait - maybe they'll give those new beers a cool, zombie-themed brand name!
  35. readyski

    readyski Aspirant (291) Jun 4, 2005 California

    This is getting complicated. Budweiser makes BCBS Heineken makes Lagunitas and now NB makes Bells. What's next, Miller makes Stone :astonished:
  36. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (2,223) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Going to the top of the ownership chain...
    Roguer, ChicagoJ, o29 and 2 others like this.
  37. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,317) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    No way! Never!

    Mostly because there's been no "Miller" other than a brand name owned by Molson Coors, since AB-InBev bought SABMiller in 2016.:grin:
  38. Number1Framer

    Number1Framer Initiate (156) Mar 13, 2016 Wisconsin

    STOP IT!
  39. ZebulonXZogg

    ZebulonXZogg Crusader (721) May 5, 2015 Illinois

    Mr. Bell probably worked his ass off making Bells the company it is. Time to retire, his 401 is called Bells Brewing. Joe Shit the rag man ain't buying Bells, someone with money is. That's how it goes. If the quality remains, who gives a rats ass if the upside down bottle is on the label. This is America, free enterprise with all it works. Congratulations Larry Bell on a life and career well done!
    AlcahueteJ, Chaz, jzeilinger and 27 others like this.
  40. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,253) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    It's a shocking announcement, but life has to go on.

    To @LarryBell, thanks for all the great beers that I've enjoyed. And may the fish always find your hook, and may you always keep a calendar close by so you'll know what day of the week it is.

    Welcome to the club! :smiley:
    JimKal, jzeilinger, pjbear05 and 22 others like this.