- Anheuser-Busch InBev is acquiring Texas-based craft brewer Karbach Brewing Co., one of the fastest-growing U.S. craft beer brands, according to a news release Thursday.
- AB InBev will add Karbach to The High End, the beer giant's growing portfolio of craft and import brands. Karbach is now the ninth brand in this business unit.
- Neither company disclosed specific terms of the deal. AB InBev expects the deal to close this year or in the first quarter of 2017, Brewbound reported.
AB InBev's continued pursuit to expand its craft beer portfolio may come as no surprise. But the key difference between Karbach and other past craft acquisitions is that this one comes within two months of the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) vow to "carefully scrutinize any future craft acquisitions" AB InBev might make.
That decision followed the DOJ's closure of an investigation into AB InBev's acquisition of Devil's Backbone. DOJ's investigation stemmed from the craft beer industry's concerns about how AB InBev's acquisition of SABMiller, which would combine the world's two largest beer companies, would impact craft beer distribution in the U.S. and the availability of ingredients.
In addition to the DOJ's scrutiny over acquisition of craft brewers or distributors, to receive approval for the SABMiller takeover AB InBev had to agree not to inhibit independent distributors' ability and incentive to sell rival brands. This may have provided some relief to craft brewers at the time. But with AB InBev confidently moving forward with its next craft acquisition less than two months later, the industry may be on edge yet again.
As long as the DOJ doesn't identify any conflicts in terms of competition, the agency will likely allow the deal to go through as planned. But if the DOJ does determine an issue, it could set a precedent that may impact any craft acquisition AB InBev attempts to negotiate in the future.