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Monster Beverage Just Bought a Bunch of Well-Known Craft Beer Brands

Food & Wine logo Food & Wine 4 days ago Mike Pomranz

Monster Energy © Provided by Food & Wine Monster Energy

America's seminal craft brewers set out to change the beer industry. And over the past 40 years, things changed a lot. Craft beer exploded in popularity. Then big brewers started buying craft breweries to get in on the action. And one could argue the resulting clutter helped spawn the current interest in other options like hard seltzer and ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails.

During the peak of those craft brewery buyouts, some smaller breweries decided to band together to stay competitive. One of the resulting companies was CANarchy, which now features seven brands, the best known of which are Colorado's Oskar Blues and Florida's Cigar City. The company's website still states its mission as being "Independent Together."

But in a sign of the times, with RTDs encroaching on the beer business as a whole, that independence is about to change: CANarchy is being bought out by the energy drink specialists Monster Beverage, who themselves are nearly 20 percent owned by Coca-Cola. Yes, even soda brands want to buy into the booze business these days.

Beyond adding a slew of craft beer brands (for the record, CANarchy's restaurants are not included in the deal, which is slated to go through in the next couple of months), the move begs the question of whether Monster plans to follow in the footsteps of brands like Pepsi's Mountain Dew and Coca-Cola's Fresca to make alcoholic versions of their drinks.


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Monster's co-CEO Hilton Schlosberg seemed to imply that was the case. "This transaction provides us with a springboard from which to enter the alcoholic beverage sector," he was quoted as saying. "The acquisition will provide us with a fully in-place infrastructure, including people, distribution and licenses, along with alcoholic beverage development expertise and manufacturing capabilities in this industry."

As for craft beer, is CANarchy — currently ranked as America's sixth-largest craft brewer — another big loss of one of the scene's best-known independent players? The Brewers Association doesn't think so yet. The craft beer trade group issued a statement saying that CANarchy will still meet the Brewers Association's craft brewer definition since Monster "is not a beverage alcohol industry member."

That may sound like a contradiction (they are buying breweries, after all) but it also seems very fitting of where the alcohol industry is today. Forget the clear divisions of craft beer versus big beer from the past. Heck, with the recent explosion in hard seltzer, it's gotten tough to even say what is and isn't a "brewery." Now, as non-alcoholic beverage makers get into the mix, things appear to be blurring even further.

When did getting grabbing a beer become so complicated?

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