Thursday, January 08, 2009

Tuppers & Legend Brewing were NOT sold to Budweiser!

A few months ago there was consternation on the interwebs that Bob Tupper had sold his eponymous brand —formerly brewed by Old Dominion— to Anheuser-Busch.

"Not true, " laughed Bob. "I could quit my teaching job if that were so."

For more than a decade, Tuppers Beers had been contract brewed by the Old Dominion Brewing Company. In 1991, Dominion Brewing assigned distribution rights to its beers to the A-B network in Dominion's home territory of northern Virginia (and some other areas). Tuppers' Beers went along for the ride.

But when Dominion was purchased outright last year by a partnership 49% owned by Anheuser-Busch, Tupper declined to go along for that ride, that is, to be in that network forever.

Legend BrewingNow comes confusion that 15-year Richmond brewery Legend has been sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev.

NOT TRUE. Repeat, "it's not true." Relax, don't worry, and drink an independent Legend Brewing Company beer.

What did happen was that a wholesaler —Legendary Distributors, not the brewery— has been sold to Brown Distributing Company, a Richmond, Va.-area Anheuser-Busch distributor.

Legendary Distributing was created several years ago to wholesale the beers of Legends Brewing. Its portfolio expanded to include many other craft beers and quality imports. Renting space in the basement of the Legends brewpub, it was a wholly separate entity from the brewery.

What's the upshot?

A small group of hard-working folk, who sold and delivered good beers —such as Legend Brewing, Oskar Blues, Victory, Dominion, Clipper City, Lagunitas, Southern Tier, Lancaster, Weyerbacher, and others including a wide range of Belgians, throughout Virginia, from rural areas to urban areas, from Blacksburg to Roanoke to Virginia Beach to Richmond to Harrisonburg to Fredericksburg —have made a bit of money. Not wealthy, mind you —that's a rarity in the good beer world— but indeed financially rewarded.

Nice things do occasionally happen to nice people.

Rick Uhler, GM of Legendary Distributing

It also means that the beer brands that Legendary Distributing had once represented now will be represented by Brown Distributing in the areas that Legendary had the rights to do so. Forever.

And, it means that Legend Brewing Company joins a growing roster of craft breweries who have enlisted the support of larger wholesaler networks to sell their beers.

In Virginia, that includes Dominion and Starr Hill of Crozet. In 2007, the latter announced a distribution alliance with the Anheuser-Busch network, followed soon thereafter with news of an A-B minority stake in Starr Hill itself.

Near-by Clipper City Brewing of Baltimore, Md. recently assigned distribution rights in Charlottesville and central Virginia to the Bud wholesaler there. Since Clipper's beers had been distributed by Legendary in Virginia outside of northern Virginia (albeit without contract), there is a good chance that Brown will gain the rights to do so in Virginia, outside of Charlottesville, and outside of northern Virginia (where a signed contract exists with a different wholesaler ... see below)

Legend Brewing has plans to add new facilities, fermenters, and an upgrade to the bottling line to handle 12-ounce bottles. (It currently packages in kegs and only 22-ounce bottles, called bombers.) More at Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Legend celebrates its 15th anniversary with a party on 8 February 2009.
  • UPDATE: photos including mock-ups of the 6-pack carriers and of the Krones bottling line.
  • More on the three-tier system here.
  • Caveat: I work for a wholesaler that distributes Clipper City's beers in northern Virginia. Prior to that I was a Territory Manager for Clipper City.
  • I was alerted to the Richmond Times-Dispatch story by blogger Relentless Thirst.
  • In a recent post, I asked for more breweries to produce more Brown Ales. Two readers reminded me that Legend brews a Brown Ale ... and it's quite tasty, I would add.

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