Craft brews are in great demand, and so are the breweries – Los Angeles Times

Eagle Rock Brewery started off as a father and son’s home-brewing hobby. Now the popular Los Angeles craft brewer is one of the best-known brands in Southern California.

The brewery has doubled production nearly every year since opening in 2009. Demand for Eagle Rock’s India pale ales and sour beers, the trendy tart twist on traditional brews, has pushed the company’s equipment and facility to their limits.

With booming sales have come a parade of eager corporate suitors, including private equity firms and business brokers, but so far Jeremy Raub has turned them all down. He sees his brewery, which he owns with his wife and his father, as more than a business. He’s proud of its role in helping to create the greater Los Angeles beer community.

“We’ve felt the pressure,” he said. “Instead of listening to the pressure from the industry and what’s happening around us, we’re just listening to our customers and the community and growing based on that.”

Like several other Southern California brewers, Raub gets multiple offers each year from investors who want to buy his brewery and cash in on the growing demand for craft beer.

Last month, several popular California craft breweries either were acquired by or announced partnerships with large beer corporations. First, Lagunitas Brewing Co. said Heineken had taken a 50% stake. Days later, San Diego-based Saint Archer Brewing Co. was acquired by beer behemoth MillerCoors. Most recently, L.A.’s largest craft brewer, Golden Road Brewing, announced that it had been acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

And more deals — with huge payoffs — could follow, but brewery owners must also grapple with customer backlash against them “selling out” and giving up a measure of control over a company they’ve nurtured.

“I think we are in a particular window where people understand there are still tremendous market opportunities out there that won’t last forever,” said Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Assn., a trade group for craft brewers. “Growing a business is expensive, so many small brewers that are growing rapidly and taking on a lot of debt are looking to finance.”