Ballast Point Brewing’s sale to Kings & Convicts Brewing, announced on Tuesday, came as a shock to industry insiders and beer fans alike. The first question on most peoples’ minds was: Who is Kings & Convicts? The next question: Does this mean Ballast Point will be a craft brewery again?
According to Brewers Association Chief Economist Bart Watson, the answer is likely yes.
“We’ll evaluate status for our craft data set during our annual review like with every company, and will need to do a bit of research on the new owners, but our initial sense is yes, it appears that based on what we know about the company, The Kings & Convicts Brewing Co. will remain a craft brewer with Kings & Convicts and Ballast Point brand families,” Watson writes VinePair in an email.
He adds that Kings & Convicts fits the BA-defined definition of craft in that “the new company will be well under 6 million barrels [of beer produced annually], appears to now be independent, and is a brewer making beer.”
(Interestingly, “This is not the first case of this occurring; a previous example was Shipyard becoming independent from Miller after they divested of their ownership stake,” Watson adds.)
Whether Ballast Point’s return to the “craft” sector will be good, bad, or relevant at all is difficult to predict, he says.
“[G]ood or bad for craft seems like a matter of opinion and requires some degree of predicting the future in a fast-changing world,” Watson writes. “Ballast Point is still a strong brand with many beer lovers, and so with the right market strategy certainly has the opportunity to return to growth, but that’s not a given in a market that has grown in competitiveness.”
He continues, “There will be challenges related to the distribution side for the Ballast Point brands. There could be more beer drinker acceptance for Ballast Point brands for those who care about independence as a small brewer rather than a brand controlled by a large brewer. Overall, it’s hard to give an answer without knowing the strategy of the new owners for the brand and their level of investment. No deal is inherently good or bad for the category without the context of how the brand is going to be positioned in the marketplace relative to other options.”
Read more about Ballast Point’s recent sale to Kings & Convicts here.