The Business of Beer: Brooklyn Brewery Finds an Investor with Japan’s Kirin

Americans love drinking beer. It’s a refreshing, filling, and intoxicating beverage that’s cheap, accessible, and fun to drink in variable quantities around friends.

Breweries love making beer. According to the U.S. Brewer’s Association, there are a record 4,269 breweries in the country (beating the previous record of 4,131 breweries in 1873). Independently owned breweries make anything from a handful of kegs to 6 million barrels of beer — the most a brewery can produce to be considered a “craft” brewer. They then sell their beer at a profit.

Brooklyn Brewery is based out of Brooklyn, NY (though they mostly brew beer in Utica, NY). Similar to other companies like Sam Adams, they’re an independently owned microbrewery and make less than 15,000 barrels a year. Their beers, however, can be found at stores, bars and stadiums throughout the U.S., and even in parts of Europe.

Kirin is a publicly-traded Japanese brewer with a huge reach. They’re not Budweiser huge, but you can find bottles of Kirin Ichiban everywhere in the U.S. and across the world. They produce much more than 15,000 barrels a year, making them a “macrobrewery.”

Recently, Kirin purchased a 24.5% stake in Brooklyn Brewery to bring the microbrewery’s beer and brand to Japan. While this might seem like a strange buy to the average beer drinker, it’s part of a growing trend that could change the face of beer as we know it.

Kirin, a Japanese brewer, just bought 24.5% of Brooklyn Brewery.

Flickr/Sean Davis

This means they hold a stake in Brooklyn Brewery, but don’t own the company. The company will continue to be an independently run company.

This influx of cash from Kirin will allow Brooklyn Brewery to expand their businesses.

Flickr/Antonio Rubio

Brooklyn Brewery will open up another facility and a bar in Brooklyn. They’ll also bring their beers to Japan and grow their business in Europe and Asia.

Big brewers investing money in craft breweries — or outright purchasing them — is nothing new.

Flickr/Four Brewers

New York-based brewery Bluepoint was purchased by AB InBev ($BUD) a few years back. Constellation Brands ($STZ) purchased California’s Balast Point brewery for a whopping $1 billion.

The definition of craft beer has also changed over time.


Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams and the largest craft beer company in America, have exceeded previous limits for what denotes a craft brewer, causing the industry to redefine how many barrels of beer a brewer can make while still being called “craft.”

Why is all this money being spent on breweries? Because in 2015, U.S. beer drinkers spent $105.9 Billion on beer.

Flickr/Rae Allen

Out of that $105.9 billion, $22.3 billion was spent on craft beer. That number wasn’t nearly as high a decade ago, which has caused big breweries and beverage companies to panic and gobble up as many craft breweries as they could.

If you wanted to indirectly invest in the future of Brooklyn Brewery, you could buy stock in Kirin.

Flickr/Map of the Urban Linguistic Landscape

Since Brooklyn Brewery’s beers will be sold in more places (like Japan) and have better brand recognition, Kirin might see a slight increase in value. However, they own so many popular and best-selling brands that selling more craft beer from one brand might not make too much of an impact.

Kirin buying a portion of Brooklyn Brewery is just one more example of big beer companies adjusting to consumer spending. Craft beer sales are steadily increasing as more people reject Budweiser, Corona, and other well-known brands for lesser-known and better-tasting products. Though craft breweries are popping up at a record rate, the speed at which major corporations acquire them isn’t slowing down any time soon.

Share this story with your friends who love craft beer…unless they like Blue Moon!