Bell’s Brewery, one of the most iconic craft brewers in the U.S., is being acquired by a unit of global beverage conglomerate Kirin Group, adding to the long list of beer-industry consolidation in recent years.
Founder Larry Bell, who started the brewery in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1985, is retiring and said Wednesday he is selling the company to Australia-based Lion Little World Beverages , which is owned by Japan’s Kirin
The move will put Bell’s under the same corporate umbrella as Colorado-based New Belgium Brewery, which sold to Lion in 2019.
“This decision ultimately came down to two determining factors,” Bell said in a statement. “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 price of the deal was not disclosed, and no major changes or layoffs are expected for the time being. “Beer drinkers should expect no changes to Bell’s current beers,” the company added.
Bell’s Executive Vice President Carrie Yunker will continue to lead day-to-day operations, and will report to New Belgium Chief Executive Steve Fechheimer.
“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,” Fechheimer said in a statement. “We couldn’t be happier to welcome the entire Bell’s team.”
Bell’s is best known for its Two Hearted IPA, which in 2020 was named best beer in America for the fourth straight year by the American Homebrewers Association magazine Zymurgy. That same survey ranked Bell’s Hopslam the No. 5 beer, and Bell’s as the best brewery in America.
After enjoying boom years and rapid expansion in the late 2000s, the craft beer industry has sharply pulled back over the past decade, suffering from oversaturated markets, slower sales and competition from hard seltzers. Lion bought New Belgium, maker of Fat Tire, nearly two years ago for an undisclosed price, and Japan’s Sapporo Holdings Ltd.
bought San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing, which billed itself as the oldest craft brewer in the U.S., in 2017 for about $85 million. In 2019, Boston Beer Co.
bought Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery for about $300 million, and Anheuser-Busch InBev SA
bought Kona Brewing Co. and Redhook Brewery in a deal valued at more than $200 million.