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Anheuser-Busch on Monday announced the sale of eight of its craft beverage brands — including Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing, Widmer Brothers Brewing and Square Mile Cider — to Tilray, a cannabis-focused company based in New York that recently expanded into the craft beverage market.

The other brands included in the $86 million cash deal include Shock Top, Breckenridge Brewery, Blue Point Brewing Co., Seattle-founded Redhook Brewery and Hiball Energy, which Anheuser-Busch discontinued in May. They add to Tilray’s craft holdings that include SweetWater Brewing, Montauk Brewing, Green Flash and Alpine Beer Co.

Tilray said the deal, which is expected to close in September, will make it the fifth-largest producer of craft beer by volume in the U.S. The definition of “craft” has become a topic of debate in the industry, however, and because of their size some Tilray brands don’t qualify as craft according to the definition set by the Brewers Association, the industry group that represents the craft beverage industry.

The sale, which includes the brands’ breweries and pubs, points to tensions in the beer industry. The craft beer market struggled through the pandemic and was stagnant in 2022, with the overall beer market overall falling by 3%. The rise of other preferred beverages such as cider and seltzer among younger drinkers, combined with less consumption overall among that demographic, has slowed craft beer’s once double-digit growth.

Rising costs and increased competition, along with consumer habits that appear to have changed during the pandemic, have also compounded struggles.

Anheuser-Busch a decade ago began acquiring craft brands, but the sale — a third of its craft portfolio — indicates it is focusing less on the market. The sale significantly doesn’t include Kona Brewing, once a part of the Craft Brew Alliance that included Widmer Brothers and the brewery Anheuser-Busch has put the most resources into in recent years.

The sale includes Bend’s 10 Barrel Brewing, which also has a brewpub in Portland and which laid off staff earlier this year. It also includes legendary Portland brewery Widmer Brothers, which Anheuser-Busch fully purchased in 2020 along with the Craft Brew Alliance collection of breweries, and associated cider brand Square Mile Cider.

For its part, Tilray expressed optimism for its expanding craft-beverage future, and CEO and chairman Irwan D. Simon is enthusiastic about the potential in the craft brewing industry.

He commented that the deal “solidifies our national leadership position and share in the U.S. craft brewing market and marks a major step forward in our diversification strategy,” according to a news release announcing the sale.

“In a matter of three years, Tilray has solidified its leadership position in the craft beer industry, and we fully intend to be that change agent that reinvigorates the sector,” Simon said. “We are excited to work with the teams behind these iconic brands that command great consumer loyalty and have a history of delivering strong award-winning products with tremendous growth opportunities.

“Tilray is fully committed to invest in and champion the future of the U.S. craft beer industry by fueling new innovation that excites and further accelerates the growth of its consumer base.”

Shares in Tilray, traded on the Nasdaq exchange, were up 31% to $2.92 by mid-afternoon Tuesday.

— Andre Meunier; ameunier@oregonian.com, 503-221-8488, @oregonianbeerguy on Instagram); sign up for the weekly beer newsletter Oregon Brews and News.



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