When the founder of the 12th largest microbrewery in the United States announces its sale, it gets attention. John McDonald revealed Boulevard Brewery’s sale to Belgian-based Duvel Moortgat in late October, and media around the world picked up the story. Locally, the backlash was immediate.
Within minutes of the announcement social media erupted with comments from people saying they’d never drink another Boulevard beer, that McDonald had “sold out,” that the “foreign takeover was starting.”
I have to admit I wasn’t ready for that kind of rancor. It looked to me like McDonald had done his due diligence and found an exit strategy that benefited not only himself, but the business, his employees, his customers and Kansas City.
To a large extent, the vitriol is a byproduct of Boulevard’s wild success. When a brand builds a fan following as large and as intense as Boulevard’s, there’s bound to be a deeply personal connection to the brand, even a sense of ownership. And no one asked all those “brand owners” whether they wanted “their” brand to be sold.
The fact of the matter is that McDonald spent 25 years dedicating his life to building Boulevard. Sure, we savored the beer, bought the merchandise, took the tours. But he took all the risk. And now, at age 60, he appears to have found the perfect exit in another family-owned craft brewery known for its dedication to quality. He remains a minority partner, and has a seat on the board of directors. The deal opens up international distribution channels, and the brewery, already operating at capacity, benefits from a capital infusion that allows it to expand in Kansas City. Plus, he retains his hometown team of employees.
McDonald has spent a lifetime pleasing his customers, brewing quality products, and creating a memorable brand experience. There’s no reason to believe he’s going to stop now.