The $100 million question: what ever happened to True Craft?


True Craft

The reader asked the $100 million question: how could he reach True Craft, the program Stone co-founder Greg Koch announced in April 2016?

“We are a brewery in planning in High Point, N.C.,” Larry Fila wrote last week, “and are looking for capital to get us to the finish line and this sounds like a great opportunity, but cannot seem to get information on reaching them.”

As I reported three years ago, Koch intended True Craft to be a financial lifeline to struggling breweries. Instead of being bought out by multi-national brewing conglomerates like Anheuser-Busch InBev or MillerCoors, breweries could sell a minority share — no more than 25 percent, Koch insisted — to True Craft.

To launch this effort, Stone pledged an eye-popping $100 million.

“This gives craft brewers another option to selling out to Big Beer,” Koch said on April 28, 2016, at a conference in Monterey. “This gives them the financing and flexibility they need to flourish while keeping their soul and control.”

True Craft sounded too ambitious to be true, and that proved to be the case. Reached while traveling in Europe this week, Koch confirmed that True Craft is dead.

“That hasn’t been active for some months,” Koch said. “It was an idea that never came to fruition.”

What happened? It seems that $100 million may not have been enough to outbid Anheuser-Busch and other multinational brewing corporations. Less than a month after True Craft’s unveiling, Devil’s Backbone, an award-winning Virginia brewery, sold to Anheuser-Busch. In 2017, North Carolina’s Wicked Weed also sold to A-B.

While neither brewery revealed financial details, Koch indicated that the prices were too high for True Craft to match.

“We’ve spent an enormous amount of time working behind the scenes, because that’s how this kind of thing works,” Koch said, when a British journalist asked him about True Craft’s status in July 2017. “The unfortunate fact of the matter is that some of the valuations coming from the buyouts by companies such as Constellation Brands and AB InBev have skewed the market.”