Fennville-based Virtue Cider, founded in 2011, is a hard cider maker. Photo via fb.com
Anheuser-Busch InBev has acquired its first Michigan craft beverage company.
Rumors had speculated about a deal between AB InBev and Virtue Cider in Fennville, southeast of Saugatuck, for more than a year, but a deal was announced today.
The deal is partnership between AB InBev’s Goose Island Brewing Co. in Chicago and Virtue Cider.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The deal gives Goose Island Brewing a majority share in the ownership of Virtue Cider and will allow Virtue Cider to use Goose Island’s brewery in Chicago for packaging and as a hub for increased distribution.
“Since we started Virtue Cider in 2011, we’ve committed ourselves to producing traditional European-style farmhouse ciders, using Michigan apples pressed at our farm in Fennville,” said Gregory Hall, founder, Virtue Cider.
“The partnership with Goose Island will give Virtue access to high-speed bottling and kegging at the Fulton Street brewery and the resources to expand production and distribution. We will get our ciders in the hands of more cider drinkers.”
Hall, the former brewmaster at Goose Island Brewing, left the company to start Virtue Cider with Stephen Schmakel when AB InBev purchased Goose Island Brewing in 2011 for $38.8 million.
Hall maintained connections within Goose Island, including his father, the founder of the company.
“We’re excited to welcome Greg Hall back into the Goose Island family,” said Ken Stout, general manager, Goose Island Brewing. “Virtue Cider produces amazing barrel-aged ciders and with our combined resources we look forward to innovating and growing the business together. ”
Accessing "more capital"
Virtue Cider fell behind on payments and this spring saw the U.S. Department of Agriculture impose a sanction preventing the company from working in the produce industry.
"We don’t believe it’s much of an issue,” Hall told the Business Journal at the time. “There is no dispute about balance. As a startup, we were somewhat under capitalized. We intend to cover the entire outstanding balance, plus 18 percent annual interest. We are addressing this issue by bringing more capital into the business."
Hall and Schmakel will maintain leadership of the company’s creative and operational teams.
Production will stay at the 48-acre farm in Fennville, which includes more than 700 oak barrels.
The hard cider is distributed in 20 states.
Virtue Cider will join several other breweries recently acquired by AB InBev, including 10 Barrel Brewing, Blue Point Brewing and Elysian Brewing.