Episode 41: Brendan Watters – Ballast Point Brewing
Brendan Watters and his partners bought a billion dollar brewery in Ballast Point. And that blew a lot of minds. What happened next might be even more surprising.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve been trapped in our houses and then our cities and counties and states for too long, but my mind has been on San Diego a lot lately. In recent episodes, we’ve had some great guests from the area and today is no exception. About 2 years ago, a small earthquake shook the craft beer world. Ballast Point, whose sale only a few years earlier for a billion dollars to Constellation, had gobsmacked everyone from the tap room on Main Street to Wall Street board rooms, had unexpectedly been sold again. This time to a tiny little brewery outside of Chicago that absolutely no one had heard of. The story seemed crazy and I certainly thought the whole situation was a bit nuts. But as it turns out, the new owners weren’t crazy, just smart, experienced business people with a vision for the future.
At first glance, Brendan Watters seems to be quite a character. With his Australian accent, wide brimmed outback hat, and mile wide smile, Brendan appears on the surface an unlikely person to purchase a brewery once valued at a cool billion dollars. But the aphorism about books and covers should be kept in mind. Because behind the camp is a successful, credentialed businessman with the right timing and connections to get this deal done.
He has recommitted the company to the local San Diego market and is building back the loyalty and respect of San Diegans piece by piece. And by most accounts, this improbable story appears on the way to a happier ending. Local beer writers are impressed with how Brendan and his team have operated Ballast Point and with their future plans.
Two years on, the Ballast Point story continues to evolve and Brendan is at the center of it. And he’s not done yet. While he plays a bit coy about future prospects, Brendan and his team appear ready to continue purchasing craft breweries in the years to come.
In this episode, Brendan and I discuss his background in business and why he and his partner Chris Bradley started Kings and Convicts in their putative retirement, how the Ballast Point sale came to be, and how he and his partners have worked to regain the trust of Ballast Point’s employees and consumers.
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About The Beer Edge Podcast
Every week, host Andy Crouch takes a look at the state of the beer industry, with a focus on the business and culture of beer. The Beer Edge podcast provides listeners with unparalleled insights into the beer industry. Our mission is to provide consumers and industry players alike with a fresh and unfiltered look at the world of better, flavorful beer. We seek to capture the essence and passion of brewers, both big and small, foreign and domestic, each of whom has a distinctive and colorful story to go along with the beautiful beers they produce. The Beer Edge podcast is available on all major podcast platforms.
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