Thursday, February 8, 2007

News: Old Dominion Sale

The following was just posted to the DC-Beer email list by Mid-Atlantic Brewing News reporter Gregg Wiggins:

Yesterday a Virginia ABC notice was posted at Old Dominion announcing that "Coastal Brewing Company LLC trading as Old Dominion Brewing Company" has applied for a brewery license. The notice also names the partners in Coastal Brewing as Southern Beverages (that's Fordham's brewing division) and Anheuser-Busch.

As Gregg said, that's all he has on this right now.

16 comments:

The Beer Lover said...

I just hope this change does not effect the product. OD has done an outstanding job of building a brand name in the DC Metro Area/Northern VA. I would hate to see them expand outside the Mid-Atlantic, and get lost on the shelf. I would hate to see any of their recipies dumbed down to appeal to a wider audience. Then again, why would they change anything? "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Right? Lew, any thoughts on that?

Lew Bryson said...

My main concern here is that Fordham already has a big brewery (that they are far from utilizing fully, or even efficiently) in Delaware. I don't like what that says about this deal.
Otherwise...this will inevitably cut down on the number of beers ODBC brews, and may well kill the contract beers and private label beers they do. Maybe. Tupper's? New River? May need to find new homes. Then again...maybe not. Those beers would be good business if they got good backing. Hard to say. But "dumb down"? Not going to happen, put that worry out of your mind. If there are marginal OD beers, they'll probably get the axe. Sad, but likely. I just hope low-volume, high-profit/prestige beers like Millennium and the winter and spring seasonals get kept. They go a long way towards preserving the prestige of the brand, and rightly so.

The Beer Lover said...

That is what really worries me as well Lew. If beers like New River, Tuppers, or any of the seasonals get the hook, it would be very dissapointing. OD has gotten knocked by beer geeks as not brewing anything "exciting", but I happen to love the fact they brew a nice mix of ales and lagers. It would be a very sad day if their Octoberfest! or say Spring Brew went away. New River is such an awesome beer as well. Would hate to see that beer get contracted some where else. Only time will tell.

Lew Bryson said...

Oh, I think another brewer could do a good job on New River: Flying Dog in Frederick, for instance, who doesn't seem to have any issues with contracting. They're certainly skilled enough to do a great job with any of OD's contracted beers. I'd rather not see them forced out, but I don't fear them finding a new home if they are. Things are going too well for New River right now; they're popping up in places where I'd never seen them before.

Loren said...

"OD has gotten knocked by beer geeks as not brewing anything "exciting", but I happen to love the fact they brew a nice mix of ales and lagers."

First craft beer I ever tried and LOVED, besides being a fan of Sam Adams already, was OD Ale on tap at Dulles. Maybe 15+ years ago?

Blew my mind.

Let's hope OD doesn't OD in the future.

Cheers!

Thomas Cizauskas said...

As a direct competitor (I'm Virginia Territory Manager for Clipper City Brewing), I should be both wary and optimistic about the sale.

Anheuser-Busch has deep pockets, with which they would be able to infuse a lot of money into Old Dominion - for advertising, for incentives, for capital improvements, for quality control and assurance. A-B can spend so much more than Clipper City itself can, or Old Dominion could without the sale, or any craft brewery can.

But I could also be cautiously sanguine about the sale. The fact that Old Dominion, de facto if not de jure, would now be an Anheuser-Busch property, might create consumer backlash. Would good-beer enthusiasts wish to drink a beer from the behemoth they love to disparage?

But, then again, as a beer lover, shouldn't I desire the sale? Old Dominion might regain the wherewithal - financially and strategically - and the enthusiasm to be a leader in the craft beer movement, as it once was.

Lew Bryson said...

Tom, welcome to STAG, very glad to have you here.
You pretty much ring all the bells but one, that one being the "two breweries is too many" problem for Fordham. Strange, how everyone ignores the Fordham involvement; it's almost like they thought it was window-dressing for an A-B takeover...
I'd love to see OD get the healthy boost this could give it and help the picture for craft overall. But yeah, one craft brewer with a lot of money will change the landscape. Stir things up, anyway.

Interesting times.

roan22 said...

"...Things are going too well for New River right now; they're popping up in places where I'd never seen them before"

Lew can you share where you have seen New River pop up? Any in Pennsylvania?

Lew Bryson said...

Roan--

Unfortunately, no, not in PA, places in VA, particularly the Metro DC area. Sorry, I'd LOVE to have this stuff nearby.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

My main worries thus far:
*Fordham's representatives have been pointedly avoiding me, not returning my calls, postponing inquiry answers, etc. And this after I said that I was not even interested in the OD story, just in documenting how Fordham got where it is today.
*Fordham's ownership is routinely "trash-talked" among several craft-brew types I talk with. Allegations range from "wannabe entertainment moguls" to "they drink Bud Light/Miller Lite!" Note: This is only the top management, not the brewers.
*I've been watching Anheuser-Busch closely; I don't think they're fools. They learned a long time ago what can happen when they get into bed with a well-liked brewery (remember "Budhook"? It took them ten years to regain face). I haven't seen mass defections from Goose Island after a similar partnership; then again, I haven't seen Goose Island rolling into my local beer bars or shops, either.
*Personally, I would have a far greater fear of any brewery deciding to get into, or adapt to, the mass distribution systems of the likes of Mal-Wart. I've bought New Belgium Fat Tire in Mal-Wart Super Centers in Arizona; I can't fathom for the life of me why it's still worshiped as it is--I had the stuff back when it was still in 22-oz bottles from the old railroad station brewery. If it hasn't been "dumbed down" for the mass market, I'll eat my beer glass. I've heard similar tales about Bridgeport IPA, which I also got from the same Mal-Warts.

Killer blog, by the way--just what I need, another *^)$#@ time-sucker........

Anonymous said...

The new owners sacked the Brewmaster and the Marketing VP today, Feb. 16th., along with another brewer. No packages.

Lew Bryson said...

The three OD folks who were fired were apparently let go without any severance, yes. I understand that they were all employed on an "at will" basis, but... They were informed that the new company would not have a need for them. That's rather blunt, but not really surprising. A-B would certainly be bringing a marketer, and Fordham's no slouch at it either. Brewers? I don't even know if the OD brewery's going to be kept open; this would appear to confirm that it will not. Could be wrong, but it seems likely. Fordham has a large, under-utilized brewery in Dover, Del.; they don't really need the OD brewery. Will production move to Dover? Dunno. Will the brewpub continue operations? Dunno. Was OD's management not able to get a package for these people? Dunno. This whole deal has been under black wraps from the beginning, and every story I've seen essentially says the same thing: A-B and Fordham are buying OD. Period. No details. Because no one who knows is talking. Yet.

Cam said...

I just took a OD brewery tour on Feb. 24th, which was led by the owner Jerry Bailey. I tried to seek additional info on the sale. He mentioned that A-B wanted the distribution rights and was mum on Fordham's intentions. Can anyone explain what distribution rights means in this case? Right to distribute the OD brand?

Lew Bryson said...

Cam:
A-B is looking for craft brands for their wholesalers. They want their wholesalers to concentrate on A-B owned or imported brands as much as possible, and the wholesalers have been clamoring for some genuine micros to enter the channel. That's why you see Redhook and Widmer in a lot of surprising venues.
I'd love to know what Fordham's intentions are. That's the missing piece to the puzzle.

Gregg Wiggins said...

Lew,

I thought you and your readers might like an update on this; as of this morning the Old Dominion Brewing Co. sale is final. The Coastal Brewing Co., essentially a new company jointly owned by Fordham and A-B, has taken over the assets of Old Dominion, as well as the Dover, Del. brewery formerly owned by Fordham's Southern Beverages brewing division.

Gregg Wiggins
Mid-Atlantic Brewing News

roan22 said...

"The three OD folks who were fired were apparently let go without any severance, yes. I understand that they were all employed on an "at will" basis, but... They were informed that the new company would not have a need for them. That's rather blunt, but not really surprising. A-B would certainly be bringing a marketer, and Fordham's no slouch at it either."

I know this is a very old post Lew, but I never saw this comment you wrote til now. The PR guy/marketer, Terry Fife....he was the "voice" of Old Dominion who emailed me back in 2005 when I first inquired about their beers being sold in PA (he was a fellow Hokie too). He is the guy who typed the name which inspired my zeal for better beer.....(Shangy.....) haha.

How about a Tuppers/New River/Roanoke Railroad/John Bryce/Blacksburg Brewing Co./SW Virginia update...a trip, a follow up story. Pretty cool idea, huh? :P