The world’s largest winery buys into the craft beer biz

Logos for Montucky and Gallo.
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Gallo Winery makes a “strategic investment” in the nation’s 40th-largest craft brewer: Montucky Cold Snacks.

California-based E.&J. Gallo Winery is generally considered the largest wine producer in the world. Its annual sales equal almost one billion bottles. Today, we learned that Gallo is jumping into the beer business. Beer Marketers Insights and Brewbound report that Gallo made a “strategic investment” in Bozeman-based Montucky Cold Snacks. Financial details of the partnership were not disclosed.

In 2023 Montucky Cold Snacks ranked 40th on the Brewers Association’s list of the top 50 U.S. craft brewers, based on production volume. The BA defines a craft brewer as small and independent. Small is a somewhat subjective term: the BA sets a number for what is considered small. Independent, on the other hand, is more objectively defined: “Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.”

If this deal means that Gallo (a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer) now owns 25 percent or more of Montucky, that would mean Montucky is no longer considered a craft brewer. To be honest, I’ve always found the definition a bit nebulous. To my mind, craft beer is like pornography: I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it.

In 2022, Montucky Cold Snacks produced an estimated 63,250 barrels of beer. That is not huge. Here in Washington state, it would rank as the second or third largest craft brewer. The company is based in Bozeman, Montana but the beer is produced under contract by City Brewing Company, a contract beverage producer in La Crosse Wisconsin. (City Brewing operates other large production facilities across the country.) Reportedly, Montucky has grown from 130,000 cases five years ago to nearly 1 million cases in 2023.


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According to Chad Zeitner, co-founder of Montucky Cold Snacks, “With Gallo’s resources, core values, focus on consumer enjoyment and similar ethos for giving back to communities, sustainability, and the environment, we believe Gallo is the perfect partner to take Montucky where we have always thought it could go … and help us do a whole lot of good along the way! We couldn’t be more excited to see where it goes from here.”

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Britt West, the VP and General Manager at Gallo, said: “Entering beer offers Gallo an exciting new opportunity to reach consumers in different usage occasions, and we look forward to collaborating and growing Montucky across the beer distributor network. We believe core lager is a big category with room for fresh and innovative propositions. We are super excited that Chad and Jeremy have agreed to stay on and help Montucky reach its full potential.”


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The announcement from Gallo also quoted CEO Ernest J. Gallo: “With Montucky Cold Snacks, combined with our expansion of High Noon into vodka iced tea, our partnerships with Canelo Álvarez on VMC and with Lotte on Soonhari Soju, our recent acquisitions of Fishers Island Lemonade, Salt Point, and Waterbird, and our continual wine innovation, such as VIBE by Vendange, we are constantly trying to bring new and better experiences to the consumer.”

You can read more about this on Brewbound (paywalled). You can subscribe to the Beer Marketers Insights newsletter here.

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