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Watch out White Claw? A small part of $321M beer deal, Redhook Brewlab plans to add ‘domestic winery’ production on Capitol Hill

(Image: Redhook Brewlab)

Capitol Hill’s “Big Beer” siblings are about to become full-on brothers. Monday, the world’s largest beer maker Anheuser-Busch InBev announced its plans to acquire the remaining 68.8% of Redhook parent Craft Brew Alliance it doesn’t already own.

The move ends a short period of independence for CBA and Redhook after the international behemoth let a deadline pass for an option to fully purchase the Portland-based alliance and its brands including Kona Brewing, Omission Brewing, Square Mile Cider Co., Widmer Brothers Brewing, and, of course, Redhook and that Pacific Northwest-born brewer’s last real-world vestige, Capitol Hill nano-brewery, the Redhook Brewlab.

It’s not clear what if any near term impacts the deal could have on E Pike. The takeover is subject to regulatory approval and won’t close until 2020.

The E Pike pub and super tiny eight-barrel Brewlab became Redhook’s sole Seattle brewing operation in late 2017 after it announced it was shutting down beer production at its Woodinville facility. The E Pike brewery now specializes in smaller, sometimes experimental batches while Redhook’s larger production undertakings originate at plants including CBA’s Portland brewing facility. The Brewlab debuted on Capitol Hill in the summer of 2017.

The deal will also mean Redhook will share a more similar path with Capitol Hill’s *other* Big Beer brewery — Elysian Brewing. AB InBev owns 100% of the 1996-founded brewery and its Seattle locations after its 2015 acquisition of the company.

For now, Redhook and Elysian Capitol Hill remain part of the neighborhood’s brewing community. Independent Optimism Brewing opened in November 2015 on E Union after its owners overhauled a $6.5 million auto-row era building into a working brewery with twice the capacity of the Redhook brewery. Meanwhile 12th Ave nanobrewery Outer Planet Brewing, located at street level below microhousing, just marked its fourth year brewing on Capitol Hill in March.

In the meantime, the Brewlab and its small team of beer makers aren’t sitting around watching AB-InBeve shares on Wall Street.

The facility has applied for a “domestic winery” license that will allow it to produce under 250,000 liters of alcohol produced from “grapes, berries, other fruits, fruit products, honey,” etc. Nick Crandall, lead brewer at the Brewlab, tells CHS the move opens up the door to the Capitol Hill facility producing cider and “expanding our R&D capabilities from a regulatory standpoint.” Crandall says, once approved, the new effort’s creations will be available under the CBA’s pH brand. The license would also permit the new Capitol Hill “winery” to possibly enter the popular hard seltzer game. Watch out, White Claw.

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