Several months ago, Marcelo "Mika" Michaelis was checking out a crowded beer shelf at a store in Long Island, New York, when he spotted cans from Platform Beer Co.

Enamored by the design, the president of Anheuser-Busch's Brewers Collective bought some, later learning that he was enjoying beer produced in Ohio. That impulse buy led to a meeting with Platform founders Paul Benner and Justin Carson, as Anheuser-Busch was interested in adding a craft brewery in the Buckeye State to its portfolio that already includes major brands such as Goose Island and Breckenridge.

On Wednesday, the maker of Budweiser announced that it had acquired the Cleveland brewery. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Platform was an attractive target, Michaelis said.

"Amazing founders with a vision. Amazing culture. Diverse portfolio. Important state. Good beer community," he said. "Everything clicked to make the partnership."

Platform — known for experimentation and producing a wide range of beers, ciders and hard seltzers — will operate as an autonomous brewery with its current leadership staying in place and Anheuser-Busch helping when needed, Michaelis and Benner said. Platform will continue to produce the same brands at its breweries and beer drinkers shouldn't notice any difference, Benner said.

"We’re not going anywhere," he said, allaying fears that production will be shifted elsewhere.

"We’re going to be making the same beer that’s going to be made by the same people and it’s going to be poured at the same locations that it was before this announcement," he added.

Platform has been a darling among beer drinkers in the Cleveland market since opening a three-barrel brewery and tasting room on Lorain Avenue in 2014. It's been growing aggressively and now boasts breweries in Columbus and Cincinnati, along with a separate production facility in Cleveland. It also is ready to open a sour facility called Phunkenship in Cleveland and plans to open a brewery in Pittsburgh.

In 2018, the Brewers Association reported that Platform — which has won medals at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup — was one of the fastest-growing craft breweries in the country in the previous year. The brewery ranked 35th in the association's inaugural list of the 50 Fastest Growing Craft Breweries of 2017.

Benner said Platform won't stray from what's made the brewery successful.

"We’re going to continue to evolve our portfolio as we have over the last two, three years," he said. "We’re going to come out with interesting new things. We’re going to take chances like we always have. And we’re going to focus on just making high quality product and the only changes that we’ll make will be those that only positively affect the finished product."

Anheuser-Busch has invested more than $130 million in the last three years in acquiring craft breweries as overall beer sales, especially major national brands, have slumped across the country. The Brewers Association, a Boulder, Colorado-based group representing craft breweries, has reported that overall beer sales fell 1 percent last year while craft beer sales grew 4 percent.

Craft breweries purchased by Anheuser-Busch have faced heavy backlash from many fanatical craft beer drinkers and those within the industry. Platform received similar criticism after the deal was announced, with some people on social media lamenting the loss of an independent brewer and others vowing no longer to support the brewery.

The Ohio Craft Brewers Association no longer lists Platform among its members online.

"I'm not naive," Benner said. "I'm in this community. I know that some of the community won't approve of the decision we made. But it doesn't change our confidence level in knowing that it's the right decision for us. We're trying to build a brewery that will be around for decades and leave a legacy in the communities that we operate in.

"We’re from Ohio," he added. "This is where we grew up. This is where I’m raising our family. We love the communities in which we operate and we will continue to invest in those communities like we have over the last five years and hopefully have opportunities to invest even more because of this partnership."

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his daily beer blog at www.ohio.com/lifestyle/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.