MillerCoors buys Crispin, Mpls. maker of hard cider

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 6, 2012 - 9:16 PM

The Minneapolis company, launched in 2008, is the country's third-largest hard cider producer.

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Crispin Cider founder Joe Heron with some naturally fermented hard apple cider.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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MillerCoors said Monday that it has purchased Minneapolis-based Crispin Cider Co., giving the big brewer a stake in the burgeoning hard cider business.

The deal also will lead to an infusion of marketing muscle -- and cash -- behind the young Crispin brand. The purchase price wasn't disclosed.

Crispin was launched in the fall of 2008 by Joe Heron, who aimed for a drier apple cider as opposed to the sweeter Irish and British styles prevalent in the market. By mid-2010, Crispin was available in 18 states and the company had more than $5 million in sales.

Crispin is now the third-largest U.S. hard cider producer, growing 200 percent in 2011 compared with the 26 percent growth posted by the entire cider market, according to Chicago-based MillerCoors.

Cider is a tiny business in the United States compared with other parts of the world, accounting for less than 1 percent of the combined U.S. beer and cider market. The market leader is Vermont Hard Cider Co., maker of Woodchuck and other brands.

But the hard cider business is growing rapidly, attracting the attention of brewing giant MillerCoors, which has its own craft-brewing arm, the Tenth and Blake Beer Co.

Crispin will operate as an independent division of Tenth and Blake, which also houses Chippewa Falls-based Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. and Colorado's Blue Moon Brewing Co.

"Tenth and Blake provides us the capability to scale up at the same pace as our increasingly accelerating demand in the U.S. and beyond," Heron said in a news release.

He couldn't be reached for further comment.

Aside from its headquarters in northeast Minneapolis, Crispin operates a cidery in Colfax, Calif., which it got through the 2010 acquisition of Fox Barrel Cider Co.

Crispin's Fox Barrel brand is a pear cider.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

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