Anheuser-Busch buys L.A. craft beer favorite Golden Road Brewing

Golden Road Brewing, the largest craft brewery in Los Angeles, is being acquired by beer giant Anheuser Busch. 

The news broke Wednesday morning as much of the craft beer industry in the country convened in Denver for the opening of the annual Great American Beer Festival — a days-long trade show that attracts thousands.

Details are sparse in the press release announcing the deal and painfully awkward companion video featuring Golden Road’s president Meg Gill and Andy Goeler, the “CEO of Craft” for Anheuser-Busch, but the deal should allow Golden Road to further increase its  distribution footprint in advance of its second production brewery and pub opening in Anaheim in 2016.

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The deal is the latest in a flurry of activity by multinational beer companies buying up craft operations. Just days ago, Millercoors acquired a majority stake in San Diego’s St. Archer Brewing Co., and days before that craft giant Lagunitas Brewing announced a partnership with Heineken that traded 50% of the company for an undisclosed sum and unequaled access to the international marketplace.

Anheuser-Busch first made news for acquiring a craft brewery in 2011 when it purchased Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery, and it has since also acquired stakes in Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewery and Washington’s Elysian Brewery.

Golden Road was founded in 2011, and it quickly grew to be the largest producer of craft beer in Los Angeles. The brewery is on pace to make over 40,000 barrels (1.2 million gallons) of beer in 2015, with brands such as Golden Road Hefe, Wolf Among Weeds IPA and 329 Days of Sun Lager common at bars, grocery stores and even concert venues around town.

Golden Road’s beers are distributed throughout California and into Nevada and Arizona. Expect this territory to grow with Anheuser-Busch’s muscle behind them.

What does this mean for the beer? Probably not much in the short term — it’ll be the same suds made by the same people for the foreseeable future. However, the deal does affect the beer’s status as “craft beer” — at least in the eyes of the Brewers Assn.

One of the three criteria for a brewery to be considered a “craft brewery” by the Brewers Assn. — not-for-profit trade association, created to “promote and protect American craft brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts” — is that brewery must be independent, defined as “less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.”

Southern California is shaping up to be the latest battleground in the David and Goliath story of craft breweries and the giant multinational beverage companies.

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