Global Beer Company To Buy Fort Collins’ New Belgium Brewing

Fat Tire Amber Ale
David Zalubowski/AP
Fat Tire is one of New Belgium’s flagship brands.

One of the names most synonymous with craft beer in Colorado is joining a conglomerate. Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing announced Tuesday that it will be acquired by Lion Little World Beverages, the Australian-arm of the international Kirin Holdings Company.

The acquisition is a 100 percent all-cash agreement that still needs the approval of regulators and the employee-owners of New Belgium. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

New Belgium was founded in 1991 in the basement of Kim Jordan and her ex-husband Jeff Lebesch’s Fort Collins house. When the two started to brew beer, Jordan cut down on her hours as a social worker and Lebesch quit his job as an electrical engineer. Today, the company has locations in its original Fort Collins home; Denver; and Asheville, North Carolina. It's also the fourth-largest craft brewer in the country.

“Little World are brewers’ brewers and we have really felt their commitment to this ancient craft,” Jordan said in a statement. “We’re absolutely excited about helping to build a collective of breweries — each with their own vibe — who share the same commitment to delighting beer drinkers with great beer, great businesses, and great collaboration among us.”

Matt Tapper, the managing director of Lion Little World Beverages said the company was “excited to welcome New Belgium Brewing into our global family of craft beverage brands.”

New Belgium became a fully employee-owned B corporation in 2013. The B corporation designation, the brewer said, means the company meets “the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.” Up until that point, Kim Jordan still held a chunk of the company. Three years later there was a small uproar amid strong speculation that the brewer was up for sale — a report that was dismissed at the time.

Jordan said Little World wanted New Belgium to keep their B Corp status.

The sale announcement to Kirin is the second big splash in as many weeks in a beer-proud state. Another name that carries strong Colorado ties, Coors-Molson, announced the relocation of their corporate headquarters from Denver to Chicago in late October. The brewery in Golden on the banks of Clear Creek will remain.

Craft beer itself is looking upon slower growth nowadays, as changes in the market and new tastes (whether that’s traditional hard liquor or hard seltzer) have weighed on sales.