Craft beer Pirate Life Brewers sold to world's largest brewer AB InBev

Pirate Life Brewing has today sold to the world's biggest brewer, AB InBev, in the third major craft brewery sale of 2017.

The sale follows AB InBev's September purchase of 4 Pines Brewing Company and Coca-Cola Amatil's buyout of Feral Brewing Company in October.

Fast-tracked success

This latest deal is most remarkable however, given that Pirate Life has only been in existence since 2015.

In that short time, the Adelaide brewer has won a multitude of trophies for its assertively hopped beers, of which three exploded into the Top Ten of the influential GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers.

It has also captured the imagination of punters with its eye-catching cans, already distributed nationally and internationally to markets including NZ, the UK and South East Asia.

Achievement unlocked

Pirate Life has always made its commercial motivations clear and its eventual sale was viewed as an inevitability by beer industry insiders. But none would have predicted it would happen before 2017 was out.

"Looking back at what we set out to do when we started in 2015, we aimed 'to be an exciting and challenging new company brewing internationally recognised beer that excites and challenges the lifestyles and palates of beer drinkers globally'," said co-founder Jack Cameron of the sale.

"Continuing with this philosophy, our new partnership helps us take our dream to a level we could never imagine and push ourselves and our beers further."

AB InBev regional president Jan Craps said Pirate Life's focus on canned packaging and consistent quality beers had attracted the Budweiser brewer's attention.

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"Pirate Life's brand is premised on a carefree and relaxed attitude and the ability to create great beers. This approach can only be enhanced with a new brewery, access to ingredients and shared knowledge from other AB InBev brewers in Australia and elsewhere," he said.

Smart money in the bank

The acquisition will enable further innovation for the brewers through a capital investment in a new brewery, with Pirate Life's current brewery in Hindmarsh becoming a site dedicated to creating new beers, including sours, seasonal and barrel-aged products.

"We have a lot to offer each other and our joint growth plans will commence immediately with a $10 million investment in an exciting new South Australian brewery that will benefit the local economy and see more beer lovers live the Pirate Life," said Craps.

With three deals concluded in a matter of months, craft beer drinkers are understandably asking themselves the question, 'who's next?'

The answer is that there are very few breweries left for the majors to buy. Stone & Wood is the largest of Australia's brewers that qualify for membership of the Independent Brewers Association, which excludes breweries with annual beer volume exceeding 40 million litres.

Not for sale

But the Pacific Ale brewer has made it abundantly clear that it has no intention whatsoever of selling.

"We are both amused, annoyed and angered that we continually hear our name being thrown around as 'the next one to go', or that 'those guys are just in it for the money'," commented Stone & Wood following previous sales.

"We're having more fun now than we ever have, there's lots to do, and we're more about buying, building and bolting things on than selling them."

The beer is all that matters

These are truly interesting times for Australian beer industry, as we all watch to see how much it matters to drinkers who makes their beer: Small independents or giant multinationals.

"Brewery acquisitions such as this grab headlines and generate significant commentary, but it needs to be remembered that there are more than 430 other Australian independent brewing businesses who will continue to put their heart and soul into their beers," the Independent Brewers Association said today.

"We will be doing all we can to help them take advantage of the opportunities created by ownership changes, such as launching an independence seal in the near future."