Terrapin Beer co-founder says company still independent after Tenth and Blake debt financing

Terrapin Beer Co.

(Athens, GA) – Early last month, Dave Kesmodel of the Wall Street Journal/MarketWatch reported an interesting tidbit that went largely unnoticed by the craft beer community.

Here’s the quote:

Tenth and Blake‘s priority is to foster growth of the company’s own specialty beers, but it also will look at forming partnerships with other brewers in the fast-growing craft category, Mr. Kiely said. For instance, the company recently agreed to provide financing to help the founders of Georgia craft brewer Terrapin Beer Co. acquire control of the brewery.

Still, Terrapin Co-Founder, John Cochran, says that plenty of people told him about rumors that were spreading about his company.

“Oh, I heard you and Spike [Buckowski, co-founder] were selling the company and splitting up.”

Cochran squashed those rumors in private discussions but with today’s news about Goose Island Beer Co. being sold to Anheuser-Busch, Cochran found Terrapin’s name being lumped in with other recent small brewery acquisitions and decided to clear the air.

Terrapin Beer Co. remains an independent brewery today after receiving a loan from Miller-owned Tenth and Blake Beer Co. Equity was not part of the financing arrangement.

Cochran explains that the founders had philosophical differences with previous investors about the future of the business and that the two sides could not proceed forward without a change. He and Buckowski favored investing in the brand’s rapid growth which, despite the conflicts, reached 75% over the prior year up near 19,000 barrels. The duo eventually met with Tenth and Blake after being introduced by a local Miller distributor, Northeast Sales. Late last year, they arrived at a deal that allowed the company to buy out those investors. They are now seeking financing that will help one of the fastest-growing breweries in the country provide further access to supply across its nine-state market.

Cochran and Buckowski now own more of the company than they have in a long time but when MillerCoors is involved, rumors tend to spread quickly.

“When Tenth and Blake found out how fellow brewers were being treated, they jumped at the chance to help. People make assumptions because it’s Tenth and Blake though.”

Cochran asserts that there are no formal arrangements in place to work with Tenth and Blake or Miller in any capacity outside of paying back the loan. He sees it as a positive step forward for Tenth and Blake as the company furthers its learning of the craft side of the marketplace.

Tenth and Blake, MillerCoors’ craft and import-focused division, launched to much discussion industry discussion last summer. The division runs a number of brands including Leinenkugel’s, Blue Moon and Pilsner Urquell. Many on the craft side have been wondering when the company will get serious about investing in this market and whether that will mean development of Miller’s own portfolio or acquisition of craft brands.

The next 12-24 months should prove to be interesting.

5 thoughts on “Terrapin Beer co-founder says company still independent after Tenth and Blake debt financing

  1. One way for the big boys to buy the small guys.. Miller owns the man, that now owns you.. What’s done is done!

  2. Sounds like a good idea for Terrapin. Why not get a loan from a fellow beer industry business? It’s not like they sold a portion of the company and have to listen to MillerCoors. Same as getting a loan from anyone, with an added bonus of publicity for MillerCoors.

  3. Pingback: CBD: Tenth and Blake grabs minority stake in Terrapin Beer Co. | Beernews.org

  4. In an article in the Athens (GA) Banner-Herald, John Cochran is quoted as saying, “During the loan discussions, it became clear that we and the Tenth & Blake leaders shared a common view of the long-term potential of Terrapin. Those conversations have now led to Spike and I inviting Tenth & Blake to convert a portion of its already existing loan to a minority stake. This allows Terrapin to significantly reduce our debt burden and enables us to invest more intensely in production capacity and innovation.”

    I really like some of Terrapin’s offerings, but it is disheartening to hear a brewer speak like a businessman, albeit it one with a problem in speaking proper English, as in “. . . have now led to Spike and I inviting Tenth & Blake . . ”

    I hadn’t heard of Tenth and Blake until now, but as a subsidiary of Miller Coors, their bottom line must be profit over flavor despite running like brands Blue Moon and Pilsner Urquel. Will they soon be running Terrapin? I’m not certain why they’ve included Leinenkugel, a brand of beer with middle-of-the-road flavor.

    If only brewers could stick to making beer profitably without big business getting involved.

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