The Asian Beer Brand That Just Made A Game-Changing Acquisition

Craft beer is an important part of the modern American beer scene, and the industry is growing to this day. Each year finds more and more microbreweries opening and working to create small batches of well-crafted beer, with Statista reporting over 9,000 small US breweries operating in 2021. One American company that's often found itself at the forefront of the craft movement is Stone Brewing, a California-based company that was established in 1996 by Greg Kotch and Steve Wagner, who would go on to be a major part of the craft beer movement popularizing "West Coast-style" Indian pale ales.

But while Stone Brewing has its roots in IPAs, innovation is what has helped keep the company relevant. This is in part due to the influence of Stone's CEO Maria Stipp, who has overseen numerous changes to keep up with the modern craft beer-drinking crowd, including the development of an IPA with lowered alcohol and calorie counts to appeal to a more health-conscious crowd and the introduction of lighter beers to Stone's slate, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The lastest change to occur at the company under Stipp's lead is its acquisition by the Japanese beer company Sapporo, Food Dive reports.

A blending of east and west

Sapporo may be a Japanese brewery, but its products are no stranger to American consumers. According to Inside Beer, Sapporo has produced the top-selling Asian beer (which is largely rice-based) in America ever since the beer brand began operating in the US in 1984. Nor is the acquisition of Stone Brewing the company's first foray into the American craft beer scene. Bloomberg reported in 2017 that the Japanese brewing company acquired Anchor Brewing for $85 million. Although Sapporo had other North American production facilities in Canada at the time, this marked the company's first step into producing beer in the US.

Per a press release on Business Wire, the Stone Brewing acquisition cost $165 million and will give the Japanese company access to the brewing facilities Stone Brewing owns in both California and Virginia, with Sapporo USA's chairman Kenny Sadai saying the acquisition "is an ideal marriage for Sapporo's long-term growth strategy in the US." This isn't the first time a Sapporo official has mentioned US growth plans; in a 2021 Bloomberg interview, Sapporo's vice president of marketing, Hiroyuki Nose, said "I would like to have a production base on the West Coast," citing importation costs from the Canada production facilities as the primary motivator.