DuClaw Brewing Company has been acquired by a New Jersey brewer, and will transition production out of Baltimore County, according to a Thursday announcement.
DuClaw was acquired by River Horse Brewing Company, based in Ewing, New Jersey, and said will move its production responsibilities to the company’s facility there.
Though the two brewers will continue to be managed separately, and DuClaw founder Dave Benfield will still be the “driving force” of many decisions regarding product and strategy, the companies plan to combine their facilities and production and also share to some distribution partnerships, according to the announcement.
River Horse will expand capacity at its facility so that it can meet the demands of DuClaw’s “national distribution footprint,” according to the announcement.
“The operations side of brewing is challenging, and at the end of the day I was spending too much of my time and energy chasing the latest mechanical, supply or logistical issue, and was taken away from driving the brand the way I wanted,” Benfield said in the announcement. “This partnership will allow me to focus on what I am best at.”
Benfield started DuClaw as a brewpub in Bel Air in 1996. In 2014, the company moved to a larger facility in Rosedale. The company’s beers, such as Sweet Baby Jesus! and Sour Me Unicorn Farts, are sold in 21 states and internationally in Canada and France, according to the company’s website.
The company assured beer-drinkers they will still be able to get DuClaw beer at local stores and shouldn’t “see too many changes.” It also teased some “new innovative product releases.”
The news comes on the heels of two other major breweries moving their production out of state. In April, Diageo North America announced it would lay off around 100 workers and cease manufacturing at Guinness Open Gate Brewery, which makes Baltimore Blonde. With the future of the ale in question, Baltimore County has pledged $500,000 to any brewery that could keep its production local.
And last month, Frederick’s Flying Dog Brewery revealed it was sold to FX Matt Brewing Company and would shift its operations to New York.
At a time of upheaval in the local brewing scene, Brewers Association of Maryland Communications Director Jim Bauckman said Maryland is not unique. Across the country, the craft beer industry has grown exponentially and is now a very competitive space, Bauckman said.
Breweries like DuClaw or Flying Dog that rely on wholesale distribution, he said, are seeing a slight decline in sales compared to some other models, largely because with more players in the industry there’s a fight to get products on retail shelves with limited space.
As a whole, the industry “has really transitioned from something that has historically just been a really cool hobby to a profession, or a really cool innovative and creative space to a very competitive space that requires a lot of good business decisions be made,” Bauckman said.
Craft beer, he added, is no longer in a period of “unbridled growth.” He also said such acquisitions have been happening with larger breweries across the country.
Both Flying Dog and DuClaw have been around for decades.
“The reality is, you’re looking at two brands that are pushing 30 years old, and at some point, what does the business do?” he said.