Colorado Brewers Guild to adjust to New Belgium sale, exit from group

FORT COLLINS — Although the pending sale of New Belgium Brewing Co. will force it to give up its independent status, the state’s craft-beer trade group believes it can handle the loss based on the loss of other major brewing companies in the past three years.

In an interview with BizWest, Colorado Brewers Guild executive director Shawnee Adelson said New Belgium will not renew its membership in January, assuming its employee owners vote in favor of the sale.

She declined to say how much New Belgium has paid in dues to the Guild, but described it as one of the largest sources of revenue in that category and also said the company has traditionally been among the most active members on the Guild’s various committees.

However, Adelson believes the Guild and New Belgium can continue to work together toward common goals, especially in lobbying and regulatory affairs, despite their forthcoming divorce.

“I think one thing that we’re really lucky and fortunate about is that we still have a great relationship with New Belgium,” she said. “I feel like our efforts will continue to be in alignment.”

While New Belgium is the largest craft brewer in the state and among the biggest dues-paying members of the Guild, it isn’t the first time the trade group has dealt with a large player leaving because of an acquisition. Avery Brewing Co. left the group in 2017 after Spain’s Mahou-San Miguel group took an initial 30 percent stake.

Breckenridge Brewery Co.’s sale to AB InBev SA (NYSE: BUD) split the state’s craft-brewing community in half in 2016, when 14 breweries left the Guild to form the rival Craft Beer Colorado group in protest of the global beer giant’s potentially outsized voting power within the group.

A number of Northern Colorado brewers joined Craft Beer Colorado, including New Belgium, Odell Brewing Co., Left Hand Brewing Co., Oskar Blues Brewery and Funkwerks. The two groups merged again in November of that year, taking the Guild’s name but adopting the bylaws of the splinter group that prohibits non-independent breweries from membership.

New Belgium co-founder Kim Jordan was among those who created those guidelines, and it is by those guidelines that the Fort Collins brewery will be forced to leave the group it co-founded.

Adelson said while it’s disappointing to see New Belgium depart from the group, she thanked the brewery for its contribution to what the Guild has become and doesn’t hold its business decision against it.

The group also believes new brewers can partially fill the void that New Belgium once held. Forty-eight new breweries joined the Guild last year, and Adelson said new breweries joining the group can partially offset the loss of New Belgium’s dues and manpower.

“We’re optimistic that we won’t have too much of a negative impact on our committees,” she said. “In terms of dues … we’re continuing to represent more and more percentage of the state each year.”

In the meantime, Adelson said the Guild will likely have to use “creative” budgeting to continue its marketing and lobbying efforts at its current pace, and is also actively considering other revenue streams.

The group launched its own insurance cooperative last spring and takes some revenue off the brokerage fees, and Adelson said it is also considering a public membership program for craft fans in the state. However, she said no plans have been made final yet.

FORT COLLINS — Although the pending sale of New Belgium Brewing Co. will force it to give up its independent status, the state’s craft-beer trade group believes it can handle the loss based on the loss of other major brewing companies in the past three years.

In an interview with BizWest, Colorado Brewers Guild executive director Shawnee Adelson said New Belgium will not renew its membership in January, assuming its employee owners vote in favor of the sale.

She declined to say how much New Belgium has paid in dues to the Guild, but described it as one of the largest sources of revenue in that category and also said the company has traditionally been among the most active members on the Guild’s various committees.

However, Adelson believes the Guild and New Belgium can continue to work together toward common goals, especially in lobbying and regulatory affairs, despite their forthcoming divorce.

“I think one thing that we’re really lucky and fortunate about is that we still have a great relationship with New Belgium,” she said. “I feel like our efforts will continue to be in alignment.”

While New Belgium is the largest craft brewer in the state and among the biggest dues-paying members of the Guild, it isn’t the first time the trade group has dealt with a large player leaving because of an acquisition. Avery Brewing Co. left the group in 2017 after Spain’s Mahou-San Miguel group took an initial 30 percent stake.

Breckenridge Brewery Co.’s sale to AB InBev SA (NYSE: BUD) split the…