Bell's Brewery Joins Japan's Kirin | Whiskey Raiders
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Bell’s Brewery Joins Kirin Global Family in Latest Alcohol Industry Buyout


Larry Bell, owner of Bell’s Brewery, is retiring and selling his company to Kirin subsidiary Lion. (Photo: Bell’s Brewery)

Australian company Lion, a subsidiary of Japanese spirits giant Kirin, has purchased Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery, according to Axios. Bell’s was the 16th-biggest brewery in the country and the seventh-biggest craft brewery as of 2020, according to the Brewers Association.

Bell’s will no longer be considered a craft brewery by the Brewers Association, whose definition of a craft brewer includes producing 6 million barrels of beer or less annually and not having more than 25% of the brewery owned or controlled by someone who is not a craft brewer.

Bell’s is the latest brewery to go from independent to owned by a major corporation, joining the likes of Goose Island, Elysian, Breckenridge, Lagunitas, Ballast Point and Anchor. It’s a move that won’t go over well with craft beer fanatics, who will see this as “selling out.” Zymurgy, a magazine from the American Homebrewers Association, has named Two Hearted Ale, Bell’s flagship beer, the best beer in America in each of the past four years.

The sale comes with the retirement of owner Larry Bell, who founded Bell’s in 1985.

“I wouldn’t call this a sell out. I would call this a sale,” Bell said, per Axios. “Nobody lives forever and I needed an elegant solution to succession.”If you look at what happened to New Belgium since acquisition by Lion, it’s nothing but good — it’s grown significantly.”

As Bell noted, Lion purchased Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing in 2019. New Belgium recently collaborate with Four Roses Bourbon — also owned by Kirin — on a bourbon-infused beer.

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