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Sunday, January 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Fat Tire brewer bought by Kirin in latest Japan craft beer deal

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 20, 2019

Lion Little World Beverages, a craft beer division of Kirin-owned Lion, will acquire the Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing in an all-cash deal. (Tribune News Service)
Lion Little World Beverages, a craft beer division of Kirin-owned Lion, will acquire the Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing in an all-cash deal. (Tribune News Service)
By Gearoid Reidy Bloomberg News

TOKYO – New Belgium Brewing, one of the largest craft beer companies in the United States, agreed to be acquired by a unit of Japan’s Kirin Holdings Co., the latest independent brewer to be snapped up in an increasingly competitive market.

Lion Little World Beverages, a craft beer division of Kirin-owned Lion, will acquire the Colorado-based brewery in an all-cash deal. The price wasn’t disclosed.

New Belgium, known for its Fat Tire Amber Ale, is the fourth-largest independent brewery in the United States, according to 2018 data from the Brewers Association. The brewery is owned by its 700 employees and has distribution in all 50 U.S. states.

The number of breweries in the U.S. alone has multiplied more than fourfold to almost 7,500 in the past 10 years, leaving some industry veterans to seek deep-pocketed partners in the crowded market. Anheuser-Busch InBev agreed to buy out Portland-based Craft Brew Alliance last week, while Samuel Adams maker Boston Beer Co. bought Dogfish Head earlier this year in a deal valued at about $300 million.

The purchase is the latest for Kirin, which has been the most acquisitive Japanese brewer in the craft scene as beer sales in its domestic market continue to slide. It bought a 25% stake in Brooklyn Brewery in 2016, and acquired London-based Fourpure Brewing Co. in 2018.

Kirin Chief Executive Officer Yoshinori Isozaki said in February that it has a $2.8 billion budget for acquisitions over the next three years, and with large M&A opportunities largely “exhausted” that it was focusing on craft beer deals in America and Europe.

Japanese brewers have been particularly active on the global M&A scene. Sapporo Holdings Ltd. in 2017 bought Anchor Brewing Co., a century-old San Francisco brewer that helped pioneer the craft-beer movement. Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., meanwhile, has focused on larger international deals, most recently spending around $11 billion to purchase Australia’s largest brewer from AB InBev.

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