Coronado Brewing acquires Monkey Paw

Moving to strengthen its position in the turbulent craft beer industry, Coronado Brewing Co. is buying Monkey Paw Brewing Co..

"They do a lot of different, unique beers that we don't usually do," Coronado chief operating officer Brandon Richards said of Monkey Paw, a brewpub in San Diego's  East Village . "And I think their brand reaches younger, millennial drinkers."

No price was revealed for the sale, announced Tuesday. Scot Blair will continue to supervise brewing operations at Monkey Paw, which he founded and owns. The deal is expected to close Sept. 1.

Last year, Monkey Paw made 650 barrels of beer, while Coronado made 39,000 barrels. Both are dwarfed by Stone, the county's largest independent brewery, which in 2016 sold 345,000 barrels of beer. (Each barrel is 31 gallons.) But Coronado's robust marketing and distribution networks, plus its brewing facilities, are expected to speed the growth of its smaller acquisition.

"I anticipate Monkey Paw will be able to make up to 3,000 or 4,000 barrels in a year," Richard said. "We'll be able to quadruple their business."

That was a key motivation for the sale, Blair said. "We're in a strange climate," he said. "I wanted to expand, to get more Monkey Paw beer out there."

He looked at borrowing more money; selling shares to investors; or seeking a partner that shares his values. In the end, Blair's long friendship with Rick and Ron Chapman, the brothers who own Coronado, was the deciding factor.

"This accomplishes all the goals that I wanted at a much quicker pace," Blair said. "And I still maintain control and integrity."

Monkey Paw was only 2 years old when it won a gold medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival for Bonobos, a strong pale ale. Last year, it won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup for its smoke beer, Ashes from the Grave.

Coronado has won numerous national and international awards in its 21-year history. In 2014, it was named World Beer Cup Champion Brewery and Brewmaster in the mid-sized brewery division.

The sale comes in a time of quickening competition and consolidation in craft beer. While this is national trend, it has been particularly evident in San Diego. The Coronado-Monkey Paw deal echoes Green Flash's acquisition of a smaller brewery,  Alpine  Beer, in 2014.

Both Green Flash and Alpine were local breweries. In 2015, though, two local breweries were sold to out-of-town conglomerates: Saint Archer to MillerCoors and Ballast Point to Constellation Brands.

Coronado is distributed in 16 states and 12 nations. About 70 percent of its beer is sold in California, and it is working to expand its West Coast presence.

In 2018, it plans to open a brewpub in Imperial Beach's Bikeway Village. This May, it became the primary investor in former Coronado head brewer Ryan Brooks' new venture, SouthNorte, a brewery of Mexican-influenced craft beers.

SouthNorte's first beers are scheduled for release in September.

Coronado Brewing's fans tend to be older than Monkey Paw drinkers, Richards said, while SouthNorte is expected to appeal to a border-savvy crowd.

"We think we'll have three unique beers that offer different types of brands to different consumers," Richards said. "We think these three brands will enable us to thrive in California for years to come."

Blair still owns two other ventures,  South Park  Brewing and Hamilton's Tavern, independent of Coronado.

"I've used South Park as sort of an incubator of Monkey Paw beers," Blair said. "This provides me with a creative outlet."

As for his new role at Monkey Paw, Blair said he'll have more time to devote to creating beers. "This is really going to transition me from head coach to offensive coordinator," he said. "I'll put points on the board. It'll be up to them to win the game."

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