Appalachian Mountain Brewery is once again an independent craft brewery owned by its founders. It is no longer owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI). It was independent, then it wasn’t, and now it is back in the hands of its founders.
The brewery’s original founders, Nathan Kelischek and Chris Zieber (above), just bought the brewery back from Anheuser-Busch InBev. So why am I, the author of the Washington Beer Blog, talking about a brewery in North Carolina? Because it gives me an opportunity to share some national news with my readers and there is a local hook. Sort of.
Someone bought a brewery from Anheuser-Busch InBev and not the other way around. This is uncommon news in a world where craft beer fans have grown accustomed to seeing independent breweries gobbled up by ABI. Industry observers, however, may not find it so surprising: ABI’s High End Division has stumbled a bit lately.
You know the old idiom about the dog that caught the car? Maybe this story is about the car that caught the dog.
The High End Division is the name ABI applies to its stable of once-independent breweries like Elysian, Goose Island, Golden Road, Four Peaks, and several others. In February, ABI shuttered one of its acquired-craft breweries, Ohio-based Platform Beer Company. That same month, it laid off an undisclosed number of employees at some of its other High End breweries.
As far as we know, Elysian Brewing wasn’t impacted by the recent turbulence. As far as we know, Elysian is not on any kind of auction block. As far as we know, Space Dust IPA is still available in nearly every convenience store in the entire country.
“Winning in craft remains a key pillar of our strategy to lead and develop the premium segment, but winning means something different in today’s marketplace than it did a few years ago,” Andy Thomas, the president of ABI’s High End division told Brewbound in February, at the time of the closure and the layoffs.
So, yeah, maybe Anheuser-Busch InBev is experiencing a bit of buyer’s remorse. While some of ABI’s acquired-craft breweries are doing just fine, others are obviously struggling. “…winning means something different in today’s marketplace…” Maybe winning means a little bit of retreating.
Nathan Kelischek and Chris Zieber founded Appalachian Mountain Brewery in 2011, a modest-sized brewery that produced just 500 barrels of beer in 2013. It quickly began to grow. In 2018, Appalachian Mountain was fully acquired by Portland-based Craft Brew Alliance (CBA), which at the time was partially owned by A-B InBev. Following the A-B InBev full acquisition of CBA in 2020, Appalachian Mountain Brewery became part of A-B InBev’s High End division.
Now, Appalachian Mountain Brewery is back in the hands of its original owners. In a statement, the new/original owners said, “We will be shifting our focus immediately on growing our local team, opening our new taproom in Mills River, NC, and continuing our investment in sustainability and philanthropy efforts that make a difference in our North Carolina communities. This all hinges on producing the highest quality products and delivering a unique experience for our customers.”
This story must make a lot of beer lovers in North Carolina happy. It makes me happy and I’ve never even been there.
You can read the entire statement from Appalachian Mountain Brewing here.