Terrapin to sell majority stake to beer behemoth

MillerCoors has struck a deal to take a majority stake in Terrapin Beer Co., the popular Athens craft brewery.

Terrapin was founded in 2002 by Brian “Spike” Buckowski and John Cochran. The partners sold a minority interest in the company to MillerCoors’ craft brewing division, Tenth and Blake Beer Co., in 2012. There had since been rumors of negotiations for MillerCoors to acquire a larger share.

A profusion of successful regional craft brewers in recent years has prompted big, old-line brewing companies to invest in a growing number of them.

Overall beer sales by volume in the U.S. dipped 0.2 percent in 2015, but craft beer sales grew by 12.8 percent, according to data from the Brewers Association. Craft beer makes up 12.2 percent of U.S. sales.

Terrapin will operate as an independent business unit of Tenth and Blake, the companies said in announcing the deal on Wednesday. Terrapin’s management and team will continue to create, brew, package, ship and sell Terrapin brands.

The transaction is expected to close in August. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

“Bringing Tenth and Blake on years ago allowed us to get to know each other better and realize the incredible potential of becoming a majority-owned partner with Tenth and Blake and MillerCoors,” Buckowski said in a release. “With Tenth and Blake’s dedication to helping us grow … we look forward to continuing to create innovative beers to share with beer lovers nationwide.”

Last year MillerCoors/Tenth and Blake took a majority stake in San Diego’s Saint Archer Brewing Co., and it also owns Blue Moon Brewing Co. in Denver, and Leinenkugel Brewing Co. in Chippewa Falls, Wis., as well as several import brands including Pilsner Urquel.

Leah Kuck, a spokeswoman for Terrapin, said for now the company will concentrate on current operations and delivering products in the Southeast, but expansion will follow “in the near future.”

The company produced 57,000 barrels of beer last year, up nearly 25 percent from 2014.

Buckowski will remain with the company and direct brewing while Cochran plans to leave, Kuck said. Frank Skorzewski, the company’s chief financial officer, will step into the role of president.

“We’re brewing the same beers with our brewers in the back,” Kuck said.

Among Georgia craft brands, Terrapin is No. 2 in volume to Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Co., which remains independent but has also been seeking to expand its reach. Sweetwater, the 18th-biggest craft brewer nationally, last year installed its first formal chief executive and said it was scouting its first plant outside Georgia.

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