Boston Beer Co. May Be Swallowed by Japanese Whiskey Giant

The brewer is reportedly in early talks to sell to Japan’s Suntory, which owns American spirits brands Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark.

Image Credit: iStock images, David Tran

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It’s known as Samu Adamusu in Japan. 

With a name like Boston Beer Co. and a brand called Samuel Adams, everything about the business screams “USA.” But the 40-year-old New England brewery’s identity may become the latest casualty in the global beer industry’s consolidation. 

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Beer is still big, but new products and quick-changing consumer habits are disrupting the industry. Anheuser-Busch boycotts aside, US beer consumption fell to its lowest level in a generation last year — the second year in a row the liquor industry held market share over wine and beer. Plus, more health-conscious drinkers are switching to non-alcoholic options.

All of this has made it tough for big brewers, which have tried to respond to changing tastes. Boston Beer’s Truly Hard Seltzer, which debuted in 2016, has slowed in popularity recently, with depletions — the number of cases sold by distributors to retailers — falling 1% in Q4 2023, “primarily due to declines in Truly Hard Seltzer.” Its Twisted Tea, N/A Sam Adams, and Dogfish Head canned cocktails picked up some of the slack but overall revenue fell roughly 4%. Before last Friday, the company’s stock had fallen 25% this year.

But then they got a call from Tokyo: 

  • Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported that Boston Beer is in early talks to sell to Japan’s Suntory, which owns American spirits brands Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. Boston Beer shares shot up 22% on Friday on the news.
  • A deal wouldn’t be shocking, given the two companies formed a long-term, strategic partnership in 2021 that delivered Sauza tequila in ready-to-drink cans and Truly hard seltzer in bottled spirits. The deal also needs the go-ahead from Boston Beer Chairman/founder/pitchman Jim Koch, who owns 100% of the voting rights in the company’s B stock.

The San Francisco Treat: Anchor Brewing – the 127-year-old San Francisco brewery bought by  Japan’s Sapporo in 2017 before shutting down last year — could be back in action. Last week, Turkish-born entrepreneur and Chobani yogurt founder Hamdi Ulukaya acquired the brewery for an undisclosed amount, citing that San Francisco is going through an era of rebirth and he wants the brewery to be a part of it. Just don’t start putting fruit at the bottom of the bottles.

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