Lion owner Kirin “understands and respects craft beer”, said Brooklyn Brewery president Robin Ottaway, as the parties entered into a capital and business partnership.
Kirin has taken a 24.5 per cent stake in Brooklyn, which Ottaway said will be reinvested in the New York company.
“We are building our new global headquarters in the Brooklyn Navy Yard with a 600-person capacity rooftop beer garden,” he said in a blog post.
“We intend to build another bigger brewery that will enable us to brew 100 per cent of the beer we sell domestically in-house.”
Crucially, Ottaway said the minority investment allows Brooklyn to retain its status as an independent owned and operated brewery, as defined by the US Brewers Association. A stake of more than 25 per cent would have seen Brooklyn lose its ‘craft’ status.
“Let me be entirely clear – Eric [Ottaway, Robin’s brother and CEO] and I will continue to control and operate the Brooklyn Brewery for many years to come. Kirin’s investment allows us to do that and a lot more,” he said.
Explaining how the deal transpired, Ottaway said Brooklyn has been selling beer in Japan almost since it was founded in 1988.
“I began visiting Japan regularly in 2012… I noticed that of the big domestic brewers, Kirin seemed to understand craft best,” he said.
“Kirin has become a leading global brewer because of their focus on quality, world-class R&D capabilities, and an ability to partner effectively.
“In 2014, they took a minority stake in Yo-Ho Brewing, Japan’s leading craft brewery. I was impressed with their focus on beer and food education at Spring Valley, a craft brewery they successfully established in 2015.
“It was clear to me that Kirin understood and respected craft beer and the way it could elevate all beer. They became a natural partner for us,” Ottaway said.
He said the investment is part of a broader strategy to form partnerships and collaborate around the world to grow the Brooklyn brand.
“We have been working successfully with another global brewer, Carlsberg, for more than a decade. They import and distribute us in many countries throughout Europe and parts of Asia,” he said.
“We have established craft breweries together in Sweden and Norway, with more coming. We are excited to now add Kirin to our team.”
The deal provides for Kirin and Brooklyn to establish a 60/40 joint venture to roll out Brooklyn in Japan next year, with a Brazil venture set to follow.
“The companies will work to expand the craft beer market using the Brooklyn brand, which is popular among younger consumers in numerous markets worldwide,” Kirin said.
“Also, the companies will consider the development of original products for the Japan market and the launch of a restaurant business in the future.”