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Blue Point Brewing sold to Anheuser-Busch

Blue Point Brewing Co. of Patchogue, the largest

Blue Point Brewing Co. of Patchogue, the largest and oldest craft brewery on Long Island, has been sold to beer giant Anheuser-Busch, the two companies announced Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. Credit: Blue Point Brewing Co.

Blue Point Brewing Co. of Patchogue, the largest and oldest craft brewery on Long Island and the company at the forefront of the growth of the local craft beer industry, has been sold to beer giant Anheuser-Busch, the two parties said Wednesday.

The purchase price and details of the deal, which will close in the second quarter of 2014, were not disclosed.

Blue Point co-founders Mark Burford and Peter Cotter said there will be no immediate changes to the brewery's operations in Patchogue, and all 25 employees are expected to stay on board.

"There's going to be investments made" in Patchogue, Cotter said. "It's only going to go up in terms of production, innovation -- with the resources of Anheuser-Busch it allows us to expand."

Burford said the company had felt constrained in its current operations, and Anheuser-Busch provided an opportunity to grow the Blue Point brand. He said there were no concrete plans set for a physical expansion or hiring.

In a statement, Luiz Edmond, the chief executive of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, said he looked forward to working with the brewery to "accelerate the growth of the Blue Point portfolio and expand to new markets, while preserving the heritage and innovation of the brands."

Anheuser-Busch, known primarily for its Budweiser and Bud Light brands, is the U.S. arm of multinational beer conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev NV.

After Blue Point was founded in 1998, Burford recalled, he had to "chase down" people to persuade them to try the beer. The public wasn't accustomed to the idea of artisanal brews.

Through the years the company became known for its Toasted Lager and Hoptical Illusion brews. Last year Blue Point sold more than 60,000 barrels -- or nearly 122,000 kegs -- of beer. It now accounts for about 1 percent of the beer sold on Long Island, according to the brewery's distributor, Clare Rose.

Blue Point was a pioneer in craft brewing locally. The number of craft breweries here grew from five in 2008 to 15 by the middle of last year.

Nationally, craft beer is also growing rapidly. In 2011 such sales grew by 15 percent in volume, while the entire beer industry grew just 0.9 percent, according to the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association, a trade group representing independent U.S. brewers.

Big beer companies have attempted to tap into that demand through new products or acquisitions. In 2011 Anheuser-Busch bought the 16-year-old Chicago craft brewery Goose Island Beer Co. Blue Point is the company's second craft brewery purchase.

Goose Island's brewing operations were moved to larger Anheuser-Busch facilities, including one in upstate Baldswinville, said Paul Gatza, a director at Brewers Association.

Paul Leone, executive director of the New York State Brewers Association, said, "Consolidation is going to happen . . . and Blue Point is just the latest example."

Gatza said the U.S. craft brewery industry sees one or two buyouts a year. And while big beer companies are able to help craft brands expand into new markets, consumer reactions are the "real wild card."

Long Islanders responded to the Blue Point acquisition with mixed reactions on social media. Some congratulated the brewery on its success, while others said they worried about the quality of their favorite local beer.

The brewers at a glance

Blue Point Brewing Co.

HQ: Patchogue

Founded: 1998 by Mark Burford and Peter Cotter

Sales: 60,000 barrels, or 122,000 kegs, in 2013

Employees: 25

Rank: 36th largest craft brewery in the United States in 2013 by sales volume; third largest in New York State

Source: Brewers Association, Newsday reporting

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV

HQ: Leuven, Belgium

Formed: In 2008, by merger of InBev and Anheuser-Busch

Sales: $39.8 billion (2012)

Employees: 150,000

Rank: World's largest beer maker

Source: Bloomberg News

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