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This new-to-SC craft brewer was just bought by the world's biggest beer company

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Appalachian Mountain Brewery

Appalachian Mountain Brewery of Boone, N.C., is one of eight craft beer brands newly acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Dave Infante/Staff

The world's largest beer company just cemented another foothold in South Carolina's burgeoning craft beer market.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Belgian/Brazilian megabrewer that makes and markets hundreds of beer brands, from Bud Light to Stella Artois to Goose Island IPA, announced Nov. 11 that it planned to acquire Craft Brew Alliance, a Portland company that owns eight craft beer brands.

One of those brands is Appalachian Mountain Brewery, a Boone, North Carolina, brewery whose beers arrived in the Palmetto State for the first time in the spring of 2018. A press release dated Sept. 30 of this year heralded the fast-growing brewer's plan to roll out cans of its gold-medal winning lager in 12-packs of 12-ounce cans across the state as well. When the just-announced deal closes (as it's expected to in 2020), the inter-Carolina craft brand will be wholly owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

AMB isn't the first Carolina craft brewer to be brought into the ABI fold, though. That would be Wicked Weed, the Asheville, N.C., operation that sold itself to the conglomerate in 2017. The sale prompted outrage and soul-searching within the tight-knit craft beer industry, but Wicked Weed has flourished even so.

In the year following, for example, its beer sales in supermarkets and convenience stores grew 2.5 times, according to a Good Beer Hunting analysis of IRI Worldwide market-research data. AMB, for its part, has grown supermarket sales 147 percent in the past three years, thanks in no small part to the CBA's access to Anheuser-Busch InBev's powerful distribution network.

ABI has held a minority state the CBA for a decade, meaning it already contributed resources toward the growth of a brand portfolio that includes Kona Brewing, Widmer Brothers, Redhook, Omission, Square Mile Cider, Wynwood Brewing, Cisco Brewers and, of course, Appalachian Mountain Brewery.

The larger company actually had the option to absorb the remainder of the smaller one earlier this year stemming from a 2016 deal. ABI passed on that opportunity, which would have cost around $328 million, in August 2019, opting instead to pay a $20 million one-time fee. This month's deal will cost ABI $221 million, a discount of more than 25 percent of the August price tag.

Like Wicked Weed, Appalachian Mountain has earned industry accolades for its wares. Three of its beers (Boone Creek Blonde, Not An IPA/P.S. It's An IPA, and AMB Lager) have earned medals at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival, a national award-show/festival held annually in Colorado.

Perhaps not incidentally, all three of those beers are now sold in cans in South Carolina. 

Reach Dave Infante at 843-937-5320. Follow him on Twitter @dinfontay.

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