Lion’s acquisition of New Belgium has led to a change in US strategy, with the company’s recently launched San Francisco Little Creatures brewpub undergoing a rebrand.
Little Creatures Mission Bay opened last July as part of an international push by the Fremantle-born beer brand that has also seen venues open as far afield as Auckland, Hong Kong, Singapore and London.
A Lion spokesperson said the change had been brought about by the perceived strength of the New Belgium brand during the COVID crisis.
“The need to navigate the current landscape following the closure of the on-premise due to COVID-19 and set New Belgium and Lion Little World Beverages up for success in 2021 and beyond has led us to review our investment priorities in the United States,” the statement said.
“As a result, we’ve decided to rebrand the Little Creatures venue in San Francisco as a New Belgium Brewing brewery and restaurant.
“COVID-19 has shown us that consumers are looking for familiar and trusted brands. New Belgium has proven to be just this, leading the craft segment in growth.
“New Belgium sales are up +28.5% YTD nationwide compared to craft growth of +13.2%. New Belgium is enjoying strong growth in Northern California and has longstanding connections to the San Francisco market with brands that will be recognised immediately by local food and beer-lovers.”
Lion acquired New Belgium, the fourth-largest craft beer brand in the United States, in November 2019. The Colorado brewery was battling debt taken on to fund an employee ownership scheme, and also borrowed to build a USD140 million second brewery in Asheville, North Carolina.
The former Little Creatures Mission Bay sits in a prime waterfront redevelopment directly across from Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. The brewery build and opening experienced challenges due to the closure of the adjacent 3rd Street Bridge, a major thoroughfare to the baseball stadium. The venue has also been closed during COVID.
The logistics of getting fresh pale ale to the home of the American pale ale were proving challenging with the venue geared for smaller special batch brews rather than prodcution of Little Creatures flagship ale.
Late last year the brewery was considering options for a local production partner, an opportunity that the New Belgium acquisition appeared to have opened up.
Brews News understands that Lion sees the move as recognition of changing brand priorities in the US with the subsequent purchase of New Belgium and the Mission Bay venue representing a better opportunity for the stonger local brand than the lesser known Creatures brand.
New Begium Founder Kim Jordan resides in San Francisco part-time. Magnolia Brewing, a sister company to New Belgium also acquired as part of the deal, is also located in San Francisco.
Listen to New Belgium founder Kim Jordan discuss the origins of the brewery and the value of independence on the Beer is a Conversation podcast.