Molson Coors has walked away from San Diego’s Saint Archer Brewery after seven years — pulling the brand from store shelves and selling the brewery and local taprooms to Kings & Convicts, the owner of Ballast Point.
Terms were not disclosed. The move comes as the craft beer industry repositions amid the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and changing consumer tastes toward seltzers and other alternatives to beer.
“We had some good wins with Saint Archer since we acquired the brewery in 2015, including new beers, expanding its geography and building a dedicated fanbase,” wrote Paul Verdu, vice president of Molson Coors’ craft division, in an email to employees. “Unfortunately, Saint Archer has struggled to meet expectations in a challenging and competitive San Diego market.”
Molson Coors will cease production of Saint Archer immediately. Kings & Convicts, a privately held company, will take over the roughly 50,000-square-foot brewery in Miramar.
In Dec. 2019, Kings & Convicts announced the acquisition of Ballast Point from beverage giant Constellation Brands. While the purchase price was undisclosed, it was rumored to be at a steep discount to the $1 billion that Constellation paid for Ballast Point in 2015.
The deal gave Kings & Convicts, based in the Chicago area, a 110,000-square-foot production brewery operation in Miramar. Since then, it has been looking to further expand in San Diego. The company’s name stems from its two founders, one of whom is English and the other Australian.
“We have the Miramar Ballast Point facility, which is massive, but it really only works for big batches,” said Brendan Watters, chief executive of Kings & Convicts. “So, this gives us more flexibility. We’re going to keep pounding out the Sculpin family and the Padres Swinging Friar Ale in Miramar, but this one lets us do more small-batch stuff in the true craft sense.”
Kings & Convicts plans to offer Saint Archer’s brewery, warehouse, packaging and taproom workers jobs, which includes about 40 people, said Watters.
Molson Coors will decide what happens to sales, marketing and other administrative positions at Saint Archer. Current employees who are not offered positions will be eligible for severance, Verdu said in the email to employees.
Molson Coors is retaining ownership of the Saint Archer brand name. Founded in 2013 by a group of investors that included skateboarders, snowboarders and surfers, Saint Archer quickly made a name for itself in San Diego’s microbrewery scene. Its beers won four metals in the San Diego International Beer Festival in 2015.
That’s when Molson Coors — then Miller Coors — swept in to acquire the brewery. It marked a milestone in the local craft beer as the first local brewery to sell to an international beverage conglomerate.
Molson Coors said it invested “significant resources” into Saint Archer’s production and commercialization in California and other states. But the brand may not have fit the growth profile of some other products in Molson Coors’ pipeline going forward —particularly considering the lingering supply chain shortages and the rise of beer alternatives, said Bump Williams of BWC Co., a beverage industry consulting firm.
For Kings & Convicts, the newly acquired Leucadia and Miramar taprooms will become its first official branded locations in the county. It plans to offer Kings & Convicts beers, along with some additional independent craft selections.
As for the production brewery, it will serve as Kings & Convicts West Coast headquarters focused on year-round and specialty releases, small-batch beers for Ballast Point and new craft beverage products.
“When I look around the industry today, I see smart investment dollars going into the production of RTDs (Ready to Drink,) FMBs (Fermented Malt Beverages,) non-alcoholic and health-and-wellness type beverages,” said Williams.
U-T reporter Andrew Dyer contributed to this report.