Brouwerij De Molen partly owned by…

Being invited to Bodegraven on a Sunday afternoon does not happen to me every day, and especially not if the reason is Menno Olivier and John Brus want to make a statement. And so I found myself there with four other beer bloggers-cum-journalists, in the expectation that the sale of this Dutch gem would be announced – the big question would be to whom. Praise be to God, things are much more nuanced.

For months the scene was buzzing with rumors: Bavaria would have bought De Molen. Last year, De Molen announced that it had entered into an exclusive distribution agreement with the Brabant-based family brewers and there was a Swinkels family member identified in a perfect and perfectly detonating suit at Borefts Beer Festival. Bavaria as well as De Molen denied all rumors – up until now. Here’s the deal.

Already in the beginning of 2015 Bavaria Brewery, through a limited company in which it participates with Brewery De Koningshoeven, purchased 35% of the share capital of Brouwerij De Molen. The shares come from several smaller founding shareholders: Menno and John jointly hold the majority of shares. This transaction means no directly invested money in the company but Bavaria has thus acquired the exclusive right of distribution of De Molen in the BeNeLux, and so a De Molen spring beer can be kept exclusively for Bavaria affiliated bars, for example. Excellent distribution is vital for a growing brewery and De Molen has chosen the channel of Bavaria (and La Trappe).

Furthermore, a growing brewer needs ‘more beer with the same quality’ also and so one must invest in kettles and tanks. This financial room has been created by selling the ‘Formido building’ and leasing it back. From the middle of this year it is hoped De Molen’s production can grow up to one million liters, and even more in 2017.

2013-Bavaria.091Menno and John stress they have not changed their ideals, and that the new shareholder has fully agreed that these will not be questioned. No compromise on taste and ingredients; continue to experiment and innovate; collaborating and sharing knowledge with other craft breweries; being an ambassador for the ‘real craft beer scene’ which stands for them for quality and diversity. And if I was Bavaria, I would not go there …

his participation is very similar to that of Duvel Moortgat in Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Also there it has been a minority stake, is a substantial broadening of distribution the direct gain and things like having access to knowledge an indirect advantage. Both De Molen and ‘t IJ have recently acquired a professional laboratory and have access to all other knowledge of their big brother, even when it comes to the art of brewing. The beer can only become better, so the consumer has clear benefits – also because of the wider distribution. In this light, these are the same similarities as with the Lagunitas-Heineken deal, or that of Ballast Point and Constellation – though these were no minority interests.

johnmennoWith this participation, of course, the current owners have blazed a path for a possible exit, however far that may be in the future. Not that Menno and John give the impression they would soon retire to hammocks – but they will someday. You better start as early as possible with the creation of opportunities.

With these reassuring considerations, I drove back to Amsterdam wondering how this news will be picked up in the Netherlands. Considering that the participation of Duvel in IJ didn’t stir much ado I do not believe this story will raise much dust – unless Brewdog decides to now issue a ukase against De Molen beer. That would, in terms of publicity, may not even be a bad idea.

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