With his craft beer company being acquired by the world’s largest beer producer, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. co-founder Steve Crandall is relinquishing his position on the board of a trade group for craft beer makers.
“It was a requirement,” Crandall said Monday of his decision to resign from the board of directors of the Brewers Association, which represents craft beer companies across the nation. “We are considered no longer independent,” he said of Devils Backbone, the state’s largest craft beer maker by volume.
Devils Backbone, which opened in November 2008 and distributes its beer in five states, announced last week that it has agreed to be acquired by St. Louis-based global beer company Anheuser-Busch for an undisclosed sum.
Devils Backbone has a production facility in Rockbridge County and a brewpub in Nelson County. The company produced about 62,000 barrels of beer in 2015 and expects to produce 92,000 barrels this year.
The acquisition, scheduled to close by the end of June, would mean Devils Backbone no longer meets the Brewers Association’s definition of a craft beer maker.
The association defines craft beer makers as those that produce less than 6 million barrels per year and are not more than 25 percent owned by another, noncraft beverage maker.
In comparison, Anheuser-Busch’s Belgium-based parent company Anheuser Busch InBev produced about 457 million barrels of beer in 2015 throughout its global operations. The company has about 200 beer brands and posted revenue of $43.6 billion in 2015.
“We can continue to be members of the Brewers Association, but we are not voting members anymore,” Crandall said. “I would have preferred to stay on (the board), but that wasn’t in the cards.”
Crandall has said he does not expect the company’s beers to change as a result of the acquisition. Devils Backbone is keeping its management team.
“Our DNA is craft,” he said. “It will continue to be so. We love what we do in this segment of the beer business, and we have an amazing innovation pipeline in front of us.”
It remains unclear what role Devils Backbone will have with the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild once the acquisition is done.
Devils Backbone’s Chief Operating Officer Hayes Humphreys is chairman of that state-level trade organization, which is affiliated with the Virginia Manufacturers Association.
Hayes and Crandall said the board of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild is scheduled to meet in May and will discuss whether the company will continue to maintain a role in the group.