Kirin to Buy Stake in Brooklyn Brewery for Craft Beer

  • New York brewer and Japanese company to form joint venture
  • Japanese brewers seek ways to grow as consumption falls

Kirin Holdings Co. will acquire about a 25 percent stake in a Brooklyn craft beer company, jumping on the specialty lager trend that’s fast-growing in the U.S. and Japan.

Kirin and Brooklyn Brewery will form a Japanese joint venture in January 2017 to roll out the Brooklyn brand in Japan, with plans to expand to Brazil, according to a Kirin statement. Brooklyn Brewery will issue new shares for the deal, whose value the companies didn’t disclose. Privately-held Brooklyn Brewery will remain independent with its management unchanged, according to the statement.

Kirin and other Japanese breweries have been experimenting with specialty brews as craft beer gains popularity in Japan. It’s one of the few brights spots for the beer industry in Japan, where a declining population has seen consumption slump since 2001. Kirin is competing against some of the world’s largest breweries to expand overseas, including a possible stake in Vietnam’s top brewer.

“The current beer market is in a transition period,” Takayuki Fuse, President of Kirin Brewery Co., said of the global industry. “We need to vitalize the market, need to make it attractive, or there’s no future.”

Craft Popularity

Brooklyn Brewery, based in the New York borough whose name it bears, is the 12th-largest craft lager maker based on 2015 beer sales volume, according to the Brewers Association. Craft breweries produced 24.5 million barrels of beer last year and posted $22.3 billion in retail sales, a 16 percent increase from a year earlier, according to the group.

The world’s largest breweries are trying to capitalize on that popularity.

“Craft beer is where the growth is,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Duncan Fox. “Consumers want beer to taste of something, and I’ve been told that Brooklyn -- by an American -- is the best. It’s probably one of the largest still available as AB InBev, Molson Coors and SABMiller have been scooping them up regularly over the last few years.”

The Brooklyn Brewery deal would follow Kirin’s purchase of a 33 percent stake in Japanese craft label Yo-Ho Brewing Co. in 2014. To draw patrons of specialty beers, Kirin opened two brewpubs last year where beer is brewed on site.

Other major Japanese brewers including Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., Suntory Holdings Ltd. and Sapporo Holdings Ltd. have also sought to jump on the craft beer bandwagon amid rising their popularity in Japan and worldwide. Asahi sees potential to boost sales of its Super Dry beer in U.S.

(Corrects details of share issuance and clarifies expansion plans in second paragraph.)
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