Labatt, which is a division of Belgian multinational beer giant Anheuser Busch InBev, announced the deal on Wednesday.
“When we first opened, we never dreamed that this was something that was possible,” Banded Peak co-founder Alex Horner said. “We’re absolutely excited about it and can’t wait to show Alberta what we’re going to do.”
Horner opened the brewery in 2016 with childhood friends, and Banded Peak quickly became a staple in Calgary’s barley belt in the city’s southeast, producing 3,000 hectolitres of beer annually.
“I completely understand why Labatt was interested in them,” beer writer Don Tse said.
“They have great branding, they have great growth potential. Nobody buys a business hoping that it stays the same, so Banded Peak has great upside and that’s what I think Labatt was interested in.”
The terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the tap room and brewery will remain standalone entities in the hands of Horner and the team at Banded Peak, with Labatt overseeing operations.
According to Horner, the plan is to add more tanks to the brewery to expand production, and there is potential to add more space to the operation.
As for the product itself, Labatt has no plans to change the beer being produced, it just plans to brew more of it.
“The team here at Banded Peak has done an amazing job creating the portfolio that they have. They innovate like crazy at the highest quality,” Labatt head of craft, Rob Legate, said.
“We’re excited to have the same people making the same great beer, just hopefully more of it, and we can leverage our scale to help them bring those amazing beers to more Albertans across the province.”
According to Tse, the acquisition opens the doors for Banded Peak to get its product onto more shelves, using Labatt’s resources across the country.
“Everybody knows that it’s all Labatt products in the Saddledome, for example… maybe we’ll find Banded Peak beer in the Saddledome now,” Tse said.
“That’s an opportunity that did not exist 24 hours ago.”
The purchase is the second acquisition of a Calgary craft brewery by a large corporation in nine months.
Last spring, Calgary craft beer staple Wildrose Brewing was acquired by Sleeman, owned by Japan’s Sapporo Breweries Ltd.
“We’re really excited about the craft beer scene in Alberta, we’ve seen tremendous growth from the craft beer segment in the province, actually outpacing the growth of the segment nationally,” Legate said. “Banded Peak is outperforming even that.”
Alberta’s craft beer industry has undergone significant growth over the last decade, with 123 craft breweries up and running in the province.
According to Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis, there were only 27 craft brewers in the province in 2015.
The acquisition comes as no surprise to Alberta Small Brewers Association executive director Mike McNeil, who said the larger beer producers are trying to gain more market share in the province.
“Our industry has grown quite a bit over the last 10 years,” McNeil said.
“So we’ve convinced customers to now drink craft — and of course they’re looking to those brands that have strong loyal followers as an opportunity to reacquire some of the customers they potentially lost during this craft beer boom.”
Banded Peak isn’t the first craft brewery to be purchased by Labatt in recent years, with the company acquiring Toronto-based Mill Street Brewery and Vancouver-based Stanley Park Brewing in 2015, as well as Quebec’s Microbrasserie Archibald in 2016.
The expansion comes on the heels of a report from Dalhousie University that shows beer sales dropped four per cent in 2019, it’s largest decline since prohibition.
According to Tse, the move from large beer giants to purchase craft breweries is a necessary move to show continued growth.
“Beer sales are overall down, what we would call ‘mass market lagers,’ like the Budweisers, the Bud Light, that type of thing, is down quite significantly. The only segment of beer that is growing is in fact craft beer and so this is a reaction to that,” Tse said.
“The Labatts of the world need to do something different and this is their ability to do that.”
As for Horner and his team, they’re just excited to get started.
“Now it’s time to get to work and start making a lot more beer and start thinking about a lot more big ideas and new products and start getting to work to get more beer out to Alberta.”