Last month, Boulevard and Duvel Moortgat announced that they will merge
in the largest craft beer merger news since
AB-InBev (sorry folks, just testing to make sure you're all awake) bought Goose Island. This merger, involving two well-known craft entities, will combine Kansas City's brewing giant with the craft beer collective that also owns Brewery Ommegang
. DCBeer reached out to the two breweries' local reps to get their thoughts on the news. Duvel Moortgat / Brewery Ommegang
rep Steven Cardello
is a DC craft beer mainstay. For his own part, Matthew "Heff" Heffernan
hasn't been in the brand representation game quite as long but is well-known for his stints at Rustico
and as the opening tavernkeeper for Smoke and Barrel
. We hope you enjoy their (lightly edited) thoughts on this news and thank them for taking the time to talk to us.
DCBeer: To what extent did you know that something was in the works along the lines of this deal? If to a large extent, was it difficult keeping it under your hats? If not to a large extent, was it a big surprise to you?
Steven Cardello: First-the news of such ventures are often best kept amongst a select few. Rumors are rumors, but our organization was notified on the same day as the rest of the industry, myself included.
Matthew "Heff" Heffernan: John McDonald made it public to employees, at a plant meeting over the summer, that he was looking for a way to secure the brewery's future. Even though it was a little vague, most people were confident that he would find a way to do it that would be good for the company and everyone involved. If you know anything about John, or especially if you've ever met him, you know that he would never do anything to hurt Boulevard. Not only is it his life's work, but he has a knack for looking at things through the lens of "What is the RIGHT thing to do?"
What strengths do you think Boulevard brings to Duvel-Moortgat/Brewery Ommegang and vice versa? This includes things like coverage of beer styles, distribution networks, public image, audience, fanbase etc.
SC: Briefly, this is the perfect fit for our brands. 1+1=3 here. John McDonald and the Boulevard team have been a resounding backbone to the American craft world throughout the Midwest. Brewery Ommegang has been perfecting its craft for 16 years primarily along the east and west coasts. Together our geographies and dedication to quality and perfection of the brewing process make the future legacy of both brands shine brightly. Remember, Duvel Moortgat is a craft beer brewery collective that continues to define and refine the groundwork on which many international brewers aspire to replicate. We foster innovation, ingenuity, and above all, quality; all values also shared by the Boulevard team.
MH: Steven pretty much nailed it here. I will add that if you look at a map of distribution strength between the two entities, it is easy to see a major factor in why this was such a huge win-win deal for all involved. In terms of style and fanbase, I mean, we just combined two of the major US Breweries, out of only a handful, who excel in the arena of Belgian-style fermentation. The whole portfolio is just so fantastic, and it gives a lot of the guys coming from the Duvel side their first involvement in classic American craft styles, which have skyrocketing popularity in Europe.
From the brand representation side, in what ways, if any, does the merger make your jobs easier? Does the merger present any challenges? Will the merger affect accounts in any way?
SC: I am not able to comment on the terms of what we do day to day as it is likely that Heff, Brad, and I have different commitments, but I can say that over the coming months we will develop a strategy that ensures market coverage for both organizations is enhanced. We see the brands as perfectly complementary, not particularly competitively. Our collective accounts in the region I feel have great respect for innovative, expertly crafted, specialty beer which we have both made for years. I have received a great amount of positive feedback from all of our wholesale and retail partners throughout the country since the announcement.
MH: We should have more details on this coming soon. Interestingly, in the context of overlapping distribution strength, here in DC Metro is one of the only areas in the country where both portfolios are strong. You can see from their history that Duvel never cuts jobs or funding, they always grow them; they always invest in the brands they do business with. I'm hoping that they invest in an army of sophisticated beer-selling cyborgs that I can control from a luxurious estate in the Belgian country-side.
There are some areas of similarity and difference in the Ommegang/Boulevard portfolios; Ommegang has a more traditional Belgian-style portfolio and Boulevard has a lot more "American" styles represented. In what ways will the merged portfolio play nicely together, and what areas of collaboration does it potentially present for brewers?
SC: See aforementioned comments re: styles. Really, it's quite a beautiful meeting of partners who want to see all of our brand styles succeed. I am not aware of any pending brewing collaborative projects at this time.
MH: A better question is: do Belgian people even know what a Double-Wide is? And if not, how long before a village of them springs up in the territory surrounding Westvleteren Abbey. I'll probably move my cyborg command center there.
Will Boulevard now start an HBO-themed beer series?
SC: At this time, I have no information on Game of Thrones but because each brewery will maintain its own identity, I don’t believe the GoT-inspired series will carry over to Boulevard.
MH: I think we should focus our television-themed R&D on 90's TGIF Sitcoms. Urkel IPA? Black & Tanner Family? In all seriousness, Take the Black is one of the best new stouts I've had in a LONG time.
Steve, what's your favorite beer from the Boulevard portfolio? Heff, yours from Ommegang?
SC: As for my personal favorites at this time, Saison-Brett and 80 Acre. Amazing liquids but there are many more that I look forward to learning about!
MH: I legitimately love everything they make, and being a native New Yorker, have been pushing the stuff my whole craft beer career. We served Hennepin at my wedding; I'd say that's probably my favorite.
Disclaimer: Nobody at Boulevard is actually discussing Cyborgs or TGIF beers. Except for Heff. Who has absolutely no say.