Could Acquisition be a Benefit to Some Breweries?

It’s not a new thing anymore. A larger craft brewery is seeing the benefit of acquiring a smaller, yet well respected brewery.

On Monday afternoon, Clown Shoes Beer, a 12,000-barrel contracted brewery that brews its beer at Ipswich Ales in Ipswich, Massachusetts was acquired by Boston’s Mass Bay Brewing/Harpoon Brewery — the country’s 17th largest craft brewery by volume.

“We are both fierce advocates for independent craft brewing and loyalty to our employees and communities,” said Harpoon founder and CEO Dan Kenary to Brewer Magazine about the acquisition. “[Clown Shoes founder] Gregg [Berman] wants to keep making great, fun beers and we are in the business of doing just that.

Berman and his team of eight full-timers and additional part-time employees will become members of the Harpoon Brewery staff, yet continue to work on Clown Shoes products and branding. Berman will stay on as the manager of the Clown Shoes brand for Harpoon.

“Operations will be managed cooperatively between existing MBBC employee-owners and new MBBC employee-owners from Clown Shoes,” Kenary explained. “The [Clown Shoes] team will retain a great deal of their independence within MBBC.

“We’re looking to actively learn from each other.”

Clown Shoes will now have the resources of three small pilot brewing systems along with production brewhouses of 10, 50, and 120 barrels along with an expanding barrel-aging program that Harpoon is undertaking as well.

It’s an experience and size that Clown Shoes “never had before” to be able to brew all kinds of different beers,” Kenary said. “It’s going to be exciting.”

Kenary added he expects to move a good deal of their production in house to breweries in both Boston and Windsor, Vermont, but not completely.

“We will continue to brew some smaller batch products at Mercury up in Ipswich with our good friend Rob Martin,” he said.

Kenary indicated that this was a deal long in the making, saying that Clown Shoes contacted Harpoon via their banker last spring.

“Initially, we passed as our plate was full with the UFO brand refresh and other items,” Kenary said. “After some reflection and conversations with some good friends in the industry who advised us to do so, we decided to take a deeper look and liked what we found. That feeling has only grown over the past six months since we had our first meetings.”

This comes on the heels of fellow Birmingham, Alabama breweries forming together as Good People acquired the Avondale brand just two weeks ago.

Clown Shoes Beer began as a single beer project in late 2009. Somewhat miraculously, that project snowballed into a craft beer brand. Since then, Clown Shoes has released over one hundred different beers, with sales in 28 states and several countries outside of the US.  Clown Shoes currently produces 10 year-round beers, along with 25-plus Limited Release, State-Specific & Barrel-Aged beers.

“For this partnership to work, everyone needs for us to continue to be Clown Shoes,” Berman said in a statement via the Clown Shoe’s website. “We will still produce innovative, high quality beers with signature graphic marketing.

“The flavor profiles of our beers, our branding, and our distribution strategies are different. But, beyond that, those of us who work at Clown Shoes are Harpoon at heart in so many ways.  … We fight with all of our energy and creativity for the brand, for the craft beer industry as a whole, and to make beer that we and our customers love. I and the Clown Shoes Team are genuinely honored and excited to get down to business with our new co-workers. Our strengths complement each other.”

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