Australasian brewing behemoth Lion has acquired the Fermentum Group, the parent firm of cult Australian craft brewery Stone & Wood Brewing.
Fermentum’s acquisition by Lion, a subsidiary firm of Japanese brewing conglomerate Kirin, has sent a shockwave through the country’s beverage market.
While public financial information around the purchase hasn’t been released, the deal is estimated to have been worth over $500 million AUD and was described by the Sydney Morning Herald as “one of the country’s largest-ever craft beer buy-outs”.
Stone & Wood is one of Australia’s most successful craft beer brands. The Byron Bay headquartered brewery’s Pacific Ale was labelled by GABS as “one of Australia’s most loved beers” in 2019 after spending a decade in their annual people’s choice polls.
Besides Stone & Wood, Fermentum owns several well-regarded Australian beer, cider and seltzer firms, including Two Birds Brewing, Fixation Brewing, Forest for the Trees, Granite Belt and Sunrise Drinks.
It has added a battalion of brands to Kirin’s arsenal in the escalating proxy war with fellow Japanese conglomerate Asahi to dominate Australia’s beer market through their respective Lion & CUB subsidiaries.
In an official statement from Lion Australia, Managing Director James Brindley said, “We have huge respect for what Jamie Cook, Brad Rogers, Ross Jurisich and the team have created; great beer, wonderful brands, spiritual homes in their breweries and tap rooms, an inclusive culture and a commitment to the community.
“We want to grow what they’ve started, giving their people and beers even more reach across the country.
Stone & Wood’s Co-Founder and Fermentum Chairman Jamie Cook had commented that “Lion’s custodianship of Little Creatures, Four Pillars and New Belgium demonstrates they in fact learn from new businesses, and grow their impact and reach.”
Chairman of Australia’s Independent Brewers Association Peter Philip was one of the first industry voices to comment on the acquisition.
“The IBA are obviously saddened by the loss of Stone and Wood from our stable of indie brewers and of course as valued members of our association. Ultimately, the reality is that business owners need to make decisions every day on what is best for them, their shareholders and their staff.
“This transaction underlines the strength and growing importance of our industry. The growth of indie breweries is testament to the fact that consumer demand is driving growth so although this might appear to be a loss, it simply paves the way for others to grow to fill the void and to take advantage of the trend.”
Consumer reaction so far has been mixed. At the time of publishing, there were several hundred reactions and comments on Stone & Wood’s Facebook announcement oscillating from accusations of the brewer selling out to warm congratulations.
Assuming regulatory approval of the purchase, Lion now faces the challenge of accelerating the growth of their new range of businesses and brands while assuring consumers, on-trade and off-trade customers that the quality of the product remains unchanged.