Lion, the Japanese-owned drinks giant behind XXXX, Furphy, Iron Jack, James Boag, Tooheys, Hanh, Foster’s and James Squire today announced it has purchased a 100 per cent stake in Fermentum Group, the parent company of Byron Bay’s Stone & Wood Brewing Co. The deal’s value has not been revealed.

Founded in 2008 by former CUB employees Jamie Cook, Ross Jurisich and Brad Rogers, Stone & Wood has grown into one of Australia’s largest and most successful craft breweries, largely off the back of its genre-defining Pacific Ale, which has been copied numerous times and, after a protracted legal dispute, is now considered a generic term any brewery can use. In other words, it’s a recognised beer style, unique to Australia.

“We have huge respect for what Jamie Cook, Brad Rogers, Ross Jurisich and the team have created; great beer, wonderful brands, spiritual homes in their breweries and tap rooms, an inclusive culture and a commitment to the community,” Lion Australia’s managing director James Brindley said in a press release. “We want to grow what they’ve started, giving their people and beers even more reach across the country.”

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Though Fermentum was independent, in recent years it’s acted more like a multinational. In January it bought Melbourne’s Two Birds Brewing outright, and later appointed KPMG to help it raise $150 million for further expansion and acquisitions. There was also talk of an ASX listing. This financial year the company is expected to turn over $100 million for $25 million profit, through Stone & Wood, Two Birds and other brands Fixation Brewing Co, Sunly Seltzer, Little Dragon, Forest for the Trees, Granite Belt Cider Co, Sunrise Drinks and Square Keg.

Like its rival CUB, Lion has a long history of acquiring successful craft breweries. In 2012 it snapped up Little Creatures, in many ways an earlier version of Stone & Wood in terms of scale and success, followed by New Zealand’s Panhead in 2016. And in 2019 it bought a 50 per cent stake in Victorian gin distillery Four Pillars.

“After an extensive strategic review exploring options to set us up for future growth, we decided to test the waters on whether now was the right time for the founding families to find a custodian to grow Fermentum’s legacy, its people, its culture and its brands, and continue to drive the business forward whilst staying true to its purpose,” Fermentum chairman Jamie Cook said in the same press release.

“We only looked for a custodian who would be committed to building the brewery and to support our work in the community. Not only did Lion welcome these ideas with enthusiasm, they demonstrated they have similar values and a focus on environmental and social governance aligned to our “Force for Good” approach.

“Lion’s custodianship of Little Creatures, Four Pillars and New Belgium demonstrates they in fact learn from new businesses, and grow their impact and reach.”

Other landmark craft beer acquisitions include:
Mountain Goat (Asahi, 2015)
4 Pines (CUB/AB InBev, 2017)
Feral Brewing (Coca-Cola Amatil, 2017)
Pirate Life (CUB/AB InBev, 2017)
Balter (CUB/AB InBev, 2019)
Green Beacon (Asahi, 2019)