Tilray Brands, a major player in the global cannabis sector, is increasing its foothold in the craft beer space — and in Colorado — with the purchase of eight brands from Anheuser Busch In Bev, including Littleton-based Breckenridge Brewery.
The deal, announced Monday, is poised to make Tilray among the largest craft brewers in the United States and position the company to become a leader in the cannabis beverage space.
In addition to Breckenridge Brewery, Tilray has agreed to acquire Shock Top, Blue Point Brewing Co., 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Redhook Brewery, Widmer Brothers Brewing, Square Mile Cider Company, and HiBall Energy. Those will bolster its already robust portfolio that includes SweetWater Brewing Co., Montauk Brewing Co., Alpine Beer Co. and Green Flash Brewing Co.
According to the Brewers Association’s most recent figures, Tilray was the 9th largest craft brewer in the country. The company expects it will crack the top five once this deal goes through, something that is expected to take place later this year.
Tilray also owns Breckenridge Distillery, which it acquired in December 2021 for $102.9 million. Breckenridge Distillery wasn’t related to Breckenridge Brewery.
“With this transaction, our beer business is expected to triple in size from 4 million cases to 12 million cases annually,” Ty Gilmore, president of U.S. Beer at Tilray Brands, said in a statement. A company spokesperson declined The Denver Post’s request for an interview Monday, and the purchase price was not disclosed (though the announcement noted it will be paid in cash).
The latest transaction includes current employees, breweries and brewpubs associated with these brands, according to an announcement. Breckenridge Brewery operates a 12-acre, farm-like brewing campus and restaurant, at 2920 Brewery Lane in Littleton, as well as a brewpub in the ski town of Breckenridge, where the company was founded in 1990. The Littleton property opened in mid-2015, just a few months before AB InBev purchased Breckenridge during a buying frenzy that included several other well-known craft breweries across the country.
With this purchase, Tilray aims to inherit brands with consumer loyalty while driving revenue and “cost synergies,” CEO Irwin Simon said in a statement. That includes exploring the non-alcoholic beer sector, as well as looking ahead to capitalize on future drug reform in the United States.
“Upon federal cannabis legalization, we expect to leverage our leadership position, wide distribution network and portfolio of beloved beverage and wellness brands to include THC-based products and maximize all commercial opportunities,” Simon said.
In 2020, a Tilray subsidiary operating in the medical marijuana space acquired SweetWater Brewing Co., whose flagship beer is called 420 Pale Ale. The deal happened months before the Atlanta-based brewery announced plans to take over a large beer production facility in Fort Collins to facilitate distribution in the Western U.S.
Simon told The Denver Post in 2021 that his plans at the time were to bring SweetWater’s beer to Canada and expand the brewery’s distribution across all 50 states. The brewery has also proven a platform for Tilray’s cannabis endeavors. In 2021, SweetWater released Broken Coast Lager, so named for a medical and recreational cannabis purveyor also owned by the parent company.