Atlanta-based SweetWater Brewing Company has been acquired by Aphria Inc., a cannabis company. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2020.
The “420 Strain” brands are the central focus of Ontario based Aphria, which started with 420 Strain G13 IPA. This acquisition is Aphria’s first venture in the United States.
Rumors have circulated around the Atlanta beer scene for years about a potential SweetWater Brewing sale. The fact it’s ultimately a cannabis company involved in the acquisition is surprising to many.
Founder Freddy Bensch had been in town from his home in Telluride, Colorado this week. Most employees were not informed of the acquisition until the press release hit the newswire.
According to Aphria, SweetWater’s management team will remain in place, along with 125 brewery employees. Bensch will remain CEO of SweetWater, reporting to Irwin D. Simon, CEO of Aphria, Inc.
Aphria, Inc (Nasdaq: APHA) is a leading world medical cannabis company, founded in 2013. According to the company’s 2019 annual report, Aphria has cultivation licenses in 10 countries, including Canada, Italy, Germany, and South Africa. The acquisition marks Aphria’s effort to capitalize on the burgeoning U.S. cannabis market. As of market close on November 4th, the company’s stock price is valued at $4.97 USD per share.
In early 2018, SweetWater debuted the 420 Strain Series of beers using terpenes (organic smell compounds) isolated from various famous cannabis strains. G13 IPA was the inaugural release and was the brewery’s second best-selling beer within a few months.
Aphria states the $300 million dollar acquisition will position the company with a platform and infrastructure within the states to access the U.S. market should cannabis be federally legalized in the future. 5 states legalized cannabis as a result of this week’s elections. The pickup of SweetWater will diversify the company’s revenue mix, as well as open up massive cross-selling opportunities in both U.S. and Canada.
Upon closing, SweetWater Brewing Company will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aphria, Inc. SweetWater receives $250 million in cash plus $50 million in Aphria stock. Additionally, SweetWater is eligible to receive up to $66 million of additional cash under an earnout through the end of the calendar year 2023
SweetWater Brewing Company was founded in 1997 and currently has distribution in 27 states. As of 2019, the brewery was ranked 14th in volume nationally by the Brewer’s Association.
SweetWater Brewing Company, Georgia’s largest craft brewery made changes over the past few years. After the laws in Georgia changed to allow for the direct sale of beer to customers, the brewery ripped out their current taproom and added an in-house restaurant.
Additionally, SweetWater all-stars 420 Extra Pale Ale and IPA were joined by massively successful “420 Strain” series of beers filled with marijuana flavored organic terpenes. The 420 Strain “G13” IPA jumped to SweetWater’s second best-selling beer in their year-round lineup.
2020 at SweetWater is already revealing even more additions to the brewery operations, most notably a distillery. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, SweetWater has acquired a distillery license with the state of Georgia. Currently, the brewery is located across the street from another distillery, American Spirit Whiskey on Ottley Drive.
At least two other breweries in Georgia hold distilling licenses, including Dry County Brewing in Kennesaw, and Wild Leap Brewing in LaGrange.
Also this month, SweetWater will be debuting fruited, terpene heavy hard seltzers. The marijuana-themed series of releases inspired by legacy weed strains have been extremely successful for the brewery, and with massive growth in the hard seltzer category, the brewery is marrying the two into one new product line.
Test batches of “Hydroponics” Terpene Infused Hard & Heady Seltzer have been available on tap in the brewery’s taproom over the past few weeks. Flavors include Black Cherry, Forbidden Fruit, and Lime Haze. The seltzers are 5% alcohol by volume – no confirmation of the calorie content. Category leaders White Claw and Truly are around 100 calories per serving.
SweetWater Hydroponics Hard Seltzer will be available in both cans and draft by the end of January.
Artwork subject to change.
SweetWater 420 Strain Chocolope
Style: Stout (w/ Chocolate)
SweetWater Mango Kush Wheat Ale debuts this month, the second edition in the weed-inspired “420 Strain” Series.
Hops and marijuana have some biological similarities. That’s why you hear the descriptor “dank” thrown around so often with India pale ales. Atlanta-based SweetWater Brewing decided last year to go all-in on that very smell and released 420 Strain: G13 IPA. The “G13” dates back to a government strain of weed created in the 1970s. If you haven’t tried it, you should. The brewery killed it with this release. It smells like weed and is a solid IPA to boot. G13 has a new bragging right at the brewery, since launch it has become the brewery’s second best-selling beer, behind 420 Pale Ale.
The brewery had always intended to make this a full series of “420 Strain” beers and this month, the second iteration has arrived – Mango Kush Wheat Ale.
This fruity “kush” strain features herbal, juicy notes of mango, finishing with the “dank” nose that the 420 Strain Series is now known to give.
This dank series uses strain specific terpenes (flavor molecules) plus organic hemp flavors to mimic real marijuana strain smells. These beers are 100% legal everywhere and contain zero psychotropic compounds, like THC.
SweetWater Mango Kush Wheat Ale can be found at the brewery as early as this week, with 12-ounce bottles arriving later this month.
Availability: 12oz Bottles, Draft.
Debut: Early March 2019
5% ABV, 30 IBUs
SweetWater Peach Love & Happiness debuts as a spring seasonal February 16th.
Ahead of warmer weather, and just in time for the Atlanta based brewery’s 22nd Anniversary Party, comes SweetWater Peach Love & Happiness. This new Berliner Weisse is dosed with peach puree.
…Peach, Love, and Happiness brings color to spring with ripe local peaches in this golden effervescent and tastily tart Berliner Weisse.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, plus Anders Osborne and Samantha Fish all headline their 22nd birthday bash, where the first taste of Peach Love & Happiness, as well as SweetWater’s 22nd Anniversary beer release, can be found.
Expect this new spring seasonal in 12-ounce cans, 12-ounce bottles, and draft.
SweetWater Brewing Company’s main taproom has remained unchanged for years. Starting October 1st, that is about to change. Starting October 1st, the taproom is closing to undergo some pretty major renovations.
The bar is going to be shifted to a centerpiece of the room, with additions of large roll-up doors, and new communal seating. Taproom attendees have most likely seen the removals of a wall and stairwell near the back. That space will soon house SweetWater’s new kitchen. The kitchen will serve food during taproom hours, as well as catering services for private events.
In the meantime, tours will still be held during normal hours with bars set up on the tented patio. The Woodlands (sour and wild ale facility) will still be open on Saturdays.
The brewery has hired Rene Ferandel as architect and Catamount as the contractor. The brewery expects the new taproom to be open in January 2019.
SweetWater Mosaic Single Hop Hazy IPA is officially the brewery’s latest seasonal, packaged this week.
Mosaic hops are the star of this hazy India pale ale. SweetWater debuted this release at the brewery for IPA Day on August 2nd.
We are going to simplify the release into simple terms. Mosaic is a dank all-star hop in the brewing world. Having a great stash of this hop increases your chances of a damn good IPA. In real life, not every brewery pulls it off. Water chemistry and dry-hopping plays a big role in the result. SweetWater Mosaic Single Hop IPA simply put – gets it all right. This hazy beer was once found in their “Hatchery Series”. Now, this release is gone full production, full on dank.
Waves of tropical and citrus flavors attack your palate. Think mango and pine. Finish just with just a touch of soft bitterness. If this were baseball, this a walk-off homerun of a seasonal.
SweetWater Mosaic is available for a limited time in 12-ounce bottles, 12-ounce cans, and draft.
Availability: 12oz Bottles, 12oz Cans, Draft.
Debut: Mid-August 2018
PIC: Beer Street Journal