Did Northern Brewer Purchase Austin Homebrew AND/OR Adventures in Brewing?

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Nextech

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@Nextech Welcome to HBT.
Sad that your first two posts have to be about AIH selling out. (this one and it's twin on another thread).

Joel, glad to hear you've have good experiences with NB. My opinion, which I am entitled to, is not based solely on this one experience. I used to order from NB until I finally got fed up with their high prices and poor service, and found suppliers who seemed to care more about customer satisfaction. Hence my frustration and why I said that had I known who bought AIH, I would have not placed the order.

They claim they were going to honor points, but I have little faith. When you contact their customer service they either ignore the email or make excuses. They've had time to figure this out. My guess is they're just hoping people forget about it. Either way, I'd rather cut my losses and move onto other suppliers with better business practices.

And I never stated nor suggested that the previous AIH owners were innocent here. However, if I were in the position to buy a competitor and wanted to ensure a seamless transition, I certainly wouldn't flip the bird to all their employees and their existing customer base.
 

kartracer2

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They claim they were going to honor points, but I have little faith. When you contact their customer service they either ignore the email or make excuses. They've had time to figure this out. My guess is they're just hoping people forget about it. Either way, I'd rather cut my losses and move onto other suppliers with better business practices.
Well is sounds like the ball is in your court. You'll never get them if you don't ask for them though. I doubt they will come looking for you just so you can redeem your points. Gift cards & rewards programs are a big profit centers. Millions of $$$ go un-redeemed every year. How big is your point fund?, maybe not worth the effort.
I certainly wouldn't flip the bird to all their employees and their existing customer base.
Well unless you have inside info how do you know the employees got flipped off?. Do you expect them to move them 100's of miles and keep them on the payroll for an order picking job?. As far as customers go, yeah maybe an e-mail explaining possible delays and such but then again maybe the change over/move has become a bigger problem than expected. Lot's of moving (or not moving LOL) parts we don't see.
I do have a question though, If you would have got your order in a timely fashion, would you stop doing biz with them again (AIH), knowing now that they are now MB/MS/AIH?.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
 

Yesfan

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To add to @kartracer2's NB experience........

My recent NB purchase was pretty good. They had a President's Day sale and so I upgraded my brew scales. They had a three scale package that looked promising, so I splurged on it. I ordered it on a Sunday and got it in the following Friday in time for a brew day that weekend. I've been pretty happy with it so far after two brew sessions.

My last purchase before that was in 2017 for some of their old school glassware that hadn't been discontinued yet or removed after the Farley sellout (Chris Farley was the original owner). To be honest, I was kinda miffed NB was sold to ZX Ventures which was under AB/InBev to finally come to be "independently" owned again under Blackstreet Capital. My cousin's experiences were about like yours...longer ship times compared to before and higher prices and poor service. That helped keep me away longer too.

To be honest, seeing that Chip Walton has returned to NB was one reason why I decide to make a purchase with them. I've always been a fan of the old BrewingTV and Chop & Brew since I was watching them pretty heavy in my early brewing days (and spending a lot of time here). Does this mean they'll be back to numero uno for me as a homebrew source? No, but I won't totally cut them off like I did in the AB/Inbev days either. The scale purchase was a very positive one for me, so I'm willing to give them another shot if they have something cheaper or unique I can't get anywhere else.
 

Yesfan

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.............I do have a question though, If you would have got your order in a timely fashion, would you stop doing biz with them again (AIH), knowing now that they are now MB/MS/AIH?.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.

I know that's addressed to him, but that's a great question. At the time for me, I walked away from NB after they first sold off to ZX Ventures and I had had some good experiences. I didn't like the idea of giving support to "big beer" instead of others like AiH, ABS, etc at the time. I know that's a hypocritical thing to say and it is if I'm buying homebrew stuff (or anything else) from big businesses like Amazon, which I was. It's my ribbon of shame.

Up to the pandemic, and especially during it, I got a lot of my goods from Amazon and other online sources due to lockdowns etc. Seeing how much they made during that time, made me feel guilty to be honest. Am I cutting Amazon off? No, but I do want to make them more a last resort than first choice.
 

Nextech

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Well is sounds like the ball is in your court. You'll never get them if you don't ask for them though. I doubt they will come looking for you just so you can redeem your points. Gift cards & rewards programs are a big profit centers. Millions of $$$ go un-redeemed every year. How big is your point fund?, maybe not worth the effort.

Well unless you have inside info how do you know the employees got flipped off?. Do you expect them to move them 100's of miles and keep them on the payroll for an order picking job?. As far as customers go, yeah maybe an e-mail explaining possible delays and such but then again maybe the change over/move has become a bigger problem than expected. Lot's of moving (or not moving LOL) parts we don't see.
I do have a question though, If you would have got your order in a timely fashion, would you stop doing biz with them again (AIH), knowing now that they are now MB/MS/AIH?.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.

I did ask them about the points, but unfortunately it didn't get me anywhere. If I didn't have such a poor experience this time around, I may have been willing to give them another chance, especially considering NB is no longer part of AB/InBev. However, it still wouldn't have changed my mind of how they handled the sale. If you search the forums and Reddit you'll find posts from AIH/AHS employees and other local customers that help put the pieces together.

To add to @kartracer2's NB experience........

My recent NB purchase was pretty good. They had a President's Day sale and so I upgraded my brew scales. They had a three scale package that looked promising, so I splurged on it. I ordered it on a Sunday and got it in the following Friday in time for a brew day that weekend. I've been pretty happy with it so far after two brew sessions.

My last purchase before that was in 2017 for some of their old school glassware that hadn't been discontinued yet or removed after the Farley sellout (Chris Farley was the original owner). To be honest, I was kinda miffed NB was sold to ZX Ventures which was under AB/InBev to finally come to be "independently" owned again under Blackstreet Capital. My cousin's experiences were about like yours...longer ship times compared to before and higher prices and poor service. That helped keep me away longer too.

To be honest, seeing that Chip Walton has returned to NB was one reason why I decide to make a purchase with them. I've always been a fan of the old BrewingTV and Chop & Brew since I was watching them pretty heavy in my early brewing days (and spending a lot of time here). Does this mean they'll be back to numero uno for me as a homebrew source? No, but I won't totally cut them off like I did in the AB/Inbev days either. The scale purchase was a very positive one for me, so I'm willing to give them another shot if they have something cheaper or unique I can't get anywhere else.

@Yesfan thanks for this input. It's good to see that not everyone is having a poor experience with NB/MS these days. I'm also a fan of Chip and have always respected him and his contributions to homebrewing. Perhaps someone can let him know that Blackstreet clearly wasn't prepared to handle this business transaction and that it left a lot of AIH/AHS customers high and dry. They really missed out on a great opportunity to grow their customer base. A little communication would have gone a long way. At the very least, existing customers should have been notified of the takeover when they were forced to register for new accounts, rather than it be under the guise of a system upgrade or whatever by the same company. With all the order and customer service issues aside, this was just deceitful and shady.
 

Yesfan

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.........@Yesfan thanks for this input. It's good to see that not everyone is having a poor experience with NB/MS these days. I'm also a fan of Chip and have always respected him and his contributions to homebrewing. Perhaps someone can let him know that Blackstreet clearly wasn't prepared to handle this business transaction and that it left a lot of AIH/AHS customers high and dry. They really missed out on a great opportunity to grow their customer base. A little communication would have gone a long way. At the very least, existing customers should have been notified of the takeover when they were forced to register for new accounts, rather than it be under the guise of a system upgrade or whatever by the same company. With all the order and customer service issues aside, this was just deceitful and shady.


I think your best bet is to send NB an email and ask. The worst they can tell you is you're SOL. Anything better than that is going to be a win.

Under my account only shows two purchases. The scale purchase and the one from 2017 I mentioned. I've bought from them many times, so don't know why my other purchases don't show. I'm not worried to be honest.
 

kartracer2

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If you search the forums and Reddit you'll find posts from AIH/AHS employees and other local customers that help put the pieces together.
Nada no thanks. I don't need to read the stories of disgruntled ppl that were wronged by the saintly ex-owners of AIH/AHS. I feel for the ppl, employees/customers, that made the owners of AIH/AHS their retirement and got nothing but a pat on the butt and a pink slip. Maybe they, the owners, should have had something in the sales agreement to make sure everybody came out as well as they probably did.
Sorry, I just can't get on the "I Hate the Evil NB/MS" band wagon.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
 
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... and OP still hasn't returned.

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Jim311

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Got no real dog in this fight but was having trouble getting NBs website to load. I figured I’d try another company for a change and placed an order thru Austin HB. I placed the order April 27 and it arrived today, it took forever. The box has all Northern Brewer hops in it, and all the labels on the grain bags are exactly like NBs. For a second I was really confused and thought something weird had happened or I had some memory loss problem but that brought me here to investigate and I can confirm. It appears NB is operating Austin HB now.
 

Nextech

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Got no real dog in this fight but was having trouble getting NBs website to load. I figured I’d try another company for a change and placed an order thru Austin HB. I placed the order April 27 and it arrived today, it took forever. The box has all Northern Brewer hops in it, and all the labels on the grain bags are exactly like NBs. For a second I was really confused and thought something weird had happened or I had some memory loss problem but that brought me here to investigate and I can confirm. It appears NB is operating Austin HB now.
Yes, they are operating both AIH and AHS now, and unfortunately the customer service of both have tanked. You got your order in less than 2 weeks, from what I have experienced and heard from others, you're actually one of the lucky ones 😆
 

balrog

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Just jumping in to say how much I love RiteBrew
I have used NB, AiH (yes, used cornies) and AHS in the past, but Niel has never EVER let me down, has a great system for getting pounds & ounces for a recipe together easily, and even with shipping from WI to MA it's less $$ and way less driving than any LHBS I have "nearby".
 

Brooothru

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Yes, they are operating both AIH and AHS now, and unfortunately the customer service of both have tanked. You got your order in less than 2 weeks, from what I have experienced and heard from others, you're actually one of the lucky ones 😆
Just one more AIH data point, so YMMV.

Needed two more kegs. Ordered 2 shiny new ones 05/04/2022, shipped on 05/05/2022, arrived yesterday 05/12/2022 mid-day in perfect condition, very well packaged.

Took a chance, saved $60 bucks, and was pleasantly surprised.
 

friarsmith

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I’m a bit of a schill considering I worked there part-time/weekends for 8 years (and almost full-time picking web orders during the pandemic while furloughed from my day job), but Great Fermentations in Indy is a great option for online orders. I would still work there on weekends but had to relocate for work last year. GF is locally owned, nice folks run the place, and you can almost always speak directly to a live, helpful human being when you call. The shipping folks over-engineer their packing to ensure safe (and prompt) transit. If there is a problem with an order, they bend over backwards to help too. Just things I noticed working there a long time.
 

Steveruch

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Just jumping in to say how much I love RiteBrew
I have used NB, AiH (yes, used cornies) and AHS in the past, but Niel has never EVER let me down, has a great system for getting pounds & ounces for a recipe together easily, and even with shipping from WI to MA it's less $$ and way less driving than any LHBS I have "nearby".
I agree. And good prices: 3 lbs of dme for a little over $10.
 
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Just jumping in to say how much I love RiteBrew
I have used NB, AiH (yes, used cornies) and AHS in the past, but Niel has never EVER let me down, has a great system for getting pounds & ounces for a recipe together easily, and even with shipping from WI to MA it's less $$ and way less driving than any LHBS I have "nearby".
I also love RiteBrew, they are my go-to for whole sacks as well as short kits of custom recipes. Since I'm in Chicagoland I can take advantage of their Speedy shipping option which is always cheaper and faster than the usual carriers. Never had cause to contact their customer service but glad to know they are helpful and there if I need them.
 
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Yes, they are operating both AIH and AHS now, and unfortunately the customer service of both have tanked. You got your order in less than 2 weeks, from what I have experienced and heard from others, you're actually one of the lucky ones 😆
This is upsetting news, AIH was a great supplier of hardware and used kegs. I really hope NB doesn't ruin them 😞
 

cajunrph

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The closest LHBS to me is in the process of closing down. They were still 45 minutes away. I try to use local as much as possible, I tried AHS and what should have been shipped by now is still pending. Ordered on Sunday the 8th. My Morebeer order placed on the same day is in Ft Worth now. I will try some of the others listed for mail orders.
 

kartracer2

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For those to who it may apply, I got this in an email today. Thought I'd share it in case others might have missed it.

"Blimey we are excited to tell you that the rewards program is back at Adventures in Homebrewing! After a brief hiatus, our rewards program is back online, and your points are waiting for you. If you had an existing points balance, but have not logged in since April 1st, you need to re-register your account with the email you previously used. By re-registering, you will also be able to access your previous order history.


To Activate Your Rewards Account:


  • Log into your customer account
  • Important, if you haven't logged in since 4/1/2022 you'll need to re-register your account.
  • Open our new rewards dashboard.
  • Start earning new points and/or redeem existing points."
Sounds like they are trying to right the ship and wanting to get back on track.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
 

Brownyard

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Placed an order with AIH this past Saturday. 5 days later and still not shipped. Sounds about right I reckon. To be fair, I complained about the fact that my order was excluded from the 20% discount sale, and they refunded the 20% almost immediately.
 
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It is always a shame to see a good company bought out by a behemoth. I am lucky, I have two LHBS on the other side of town from me, both are fantastic and I am friends with both of the owners. One of them has a full website to place orders, not bad for a two person operation. This is a time where supporting your LHBS is more important than ever. I am glad to see that AIH is still trying to carry on, at least for now, before big brother gets their claws deep in em. I have used NB in the past, but after seeing out godawfully over priced they are, only if my back is against the wall and all other options are off the table. If any of you are local to me, but you don't live in town, hit me up and I can pick stuff up.
 

brew_mama

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I got my last brew stuff just before AHS closed and hearing all the complaints about slow shipping, I'm wondering where I'm gonna get my net round of ingredients. I might just have to trek down to South Austin and check out the store down there.
 

Joeywhat

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This is exactly why it's imperative to support your local HBS if it hasn't went out of business yet. I understand if ones not close to you but please support your LHBS even if you have to pay a little more. Brew on!
AIH *was* my local homebrew shop... I was shopping there before the Ann Arbor warehouse existed. It's a shame this all happened, not a lot of comparable homebrew stores in this area these days.
 

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I also love RiteBrew, they are my go-to for whole sacks as well as short kits of custom recipes. Since I'm in Chicagoland I can take advantage of their Speedy shipping option which is always cheaper and faster than the usual carriers. Never had cause to contact their customer service but glad to know they are helpful and there if I need them.
I ordered some stuff from them Wednesday and got it on Friday.
 

Nextech

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I ordered some stuff from them Wednesday and got it on Friday.
I recently placed a couple orders with RiteBrew (one of them was placed AND received while I was still waiting several weeks for my AIH order to ship). They're my go-to source for ingredients and other homebrew stuff now that the "new" AIH has taken a thousand steps back. It's a shame that NB destroyed the exceptional business that AIH spent years building, in a matter of weeks. 😔
 
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a copy-pasta-edit from a related topic:

My experience with Ritebrew is this:
  • orders have always been packaged for shipment as they indicate
  • shipping (outside of Ritebrew's control) has almost always been as expected (next day or day after). Ritebrew customer support has been helpful in those situations where shipping didn't "go as expected".
 

humpadilo

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I got my last brew stuff just before AHS closed and hearing all the complaints about slow shipping, I'm wondering where I'm gonna get my net round of ingredients. I might just have to trek down to South Austin and check out the store down there.
AHS was my local place. I’ve been going to them for about 8 years. I have to drive through Austin to get to SOCO Homebrew now. They do ship ingredients. I have ordered online through them twice and they got my stuff to me within about three days both times.
 

Ibrew2

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Beginning of the end for affordable home brewing?

If most of the small to medium home brew suppliers are bought out, then prices will increase.

Also, bigger buyers have much more sway over suppliers like hops growers and malt houses, which means they are first in line to get product and they also negotiate a better price then the smaller shops can get, if the smaller shops can even get inventory.

The fact that AB/InBev had a hand in acquiring a large home brew supply house indicates to me that they consider it to be potentially profitable or they consider home brewing to be a threat to their bottom line.
I would not doubt the AB/InBev is somehow involved in the ongoing aquasitions through Blackstreet using them as a shill.

If the price of ingredients and supplies to make home brew far exceed what we can buy a decent craft brew for, much less the swill that made home brewing so appealing to many to begin with, then a big advantage of home brewing disappears.

Going to be interesting to see where this all goes.

Growing our own hops is entirely feasible for most of us, but growing and malting barley is a whole different kettle of brew.

I completely support the idea of using LHBS for all my needs. But alas, the closest one to me is 4 hours away, so I buy from them when I have to travel, or I order online.

I liked Austin Homebrew and ordered from them in the past. I was going to order 50lbs of dextrose and and a recipe kit recently and they wanted more to ship a sack of dextrose then I could buy it WITH free shipping from another vendor.
Sent and email asking about it, no response.

Customer service is out the window it appears.

Oh well, that’s all I have for now.... rant over!

Ibrew2
 

Bassman2003

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It seems like a stretch for InBev to be buying out business' just to drive the cost of ingredients up to protect sales of their beer. Pretty far out on the limb unless they buy every LHBS. If Morebeer stays separate then they will be able to sell everything at a lower price than the InBev consortium and internet loyalty (or lack of) will backfire on the InBev group. Stranger things have happened so I can't say it is not true, just seems like a lot of effort for hombrewers to buy Bud.
 

Ibrew2

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It seems like a stretch for InBev to be buying out business' just to drive the cost of ingredients up to protect sales of their beer. Pretty far out on the limb unless they buy every LHBS. If Morebeer stays separate then they will be able to sell everything at a lower price than the InBev consortium and internet loyalty (or lack of) will backfire on the InBev group. Stranger things have happened so I can't say it is not true, just seems like a lot of effort for hombrewers to buy Bud.
Not a stretch at all. American corporate history has many examples of this happening. There used to be strong antitrust laws that made this less likely, but they have been watered down over the decades. And home brewing is done by such a small number of people that we have nobody lobbying for our cause where it matters.

Also, They don’t need to buy them all, just enough of them to make them the biggest player buying a majority of the ingredients and they control the market.
During the recent supply chain shortages, big buyers like Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot as well as other huge players could still get most things, albeit at a slower pace, where as the small player could not get many items. And when your the only game in town, you set your own prices. That’s how capitalism works, love it or hate it.

I wonder what percentage of beer consumed in the US is home brewed.

Ibrew2
 

Ibrew2

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I wonder what percentage of beer consumed in the US is home brewed.
According to the brewers association, as of 2017, 1.1 million people home brew, producing about 1% of beer produced in the US.

I don’t know if that’s enough to concern the big guys or not.

The question I have is this: Why did AB/InBev get involved with and purchase NB to begin with? They must have some motive to do that.

Ibrew2
 
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Bassman2003

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I am not really speaking to if or why, but more to how effective it would be for InBev's end goal. Imho it would limit homebrewing which probably not have an impact on sales of Budweiser. Maybe some craft beer brands they own would see some benefit, but how much compared to buying up multiple business' in a squeezed margin space to begin with?

I think they already own BSG (Brewer's Supply Group) don't they? That would be the best way to raise prices. Raising pricing at the retail level has a risk of losing customers and not making your rent. (in this case not operating in the black). It is odd but as you state, predatory practices is not new for the space.
 
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Ibrew2

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I am not really speaking to if or why, but more to how effective it would be for InBev's end goal. Imho it would limit homebrewing which probably not have an impact on sales of Budweiser. Maybe some craft beer brands they own would see some benefit, but how much compared to buying up multiple business' in a squeezed margin space to begin with?

I think they already own BSI group don't they? That would be the best way to raise prices. Raising pricing at the retail level has a risk of losing customers and not making your rent. (in this case not operating in the black). It is odd but as you state, predatory practices is not new for the space.
I think the question of “why” is important to try and understand their motives. In reality we will never fully know what their motives are until the act on them, with the exception of maximizing profits, as that is a given.

Concerning the buying up of businesses and consolidating the operations, that cost is minor in the scheme of things. Market cap of AB/InBev is about $96 billion US, with revenue of about $53 billion worldwide.
I believe we would be hard pressed to think they couldn’t take majority control of the home brew market for more the $20-30 million. Just a guess on my part.

I would like to know what AHB & AIB sold for. That info may shed more light on these questions. Realistically, $50 million would likely be a fair price for a 1% market share increase and more control in that same market.

Concerning losing customers, I know of more then 1 person who would live in their car before the would give up beer! Lol
And most people would give up other things before giving up beer or a place to live.
Beer is important to many people in the US and elsewhere. If the price doubled, consumption would go down, but not by 50%.

I’m retired on a fixed income, but the wife likes her apple cider and wine, so we make adjustments.
As an example, Locally we pay $12.00 a 6 pack for Angry orchard. That’s $2.00 a bottle!
I am currently ramping up my cider and apple wine making and hoping she likes it well enough that I can discontinue purchasing commercially produced stuff.
I can make Edworts apple wine for less the 50 cents a 12 oz bottle. That’s paying $4/gallon for juice. Add sugar, yeast and bottle caps and I’m under 50 cents/bottle. Get the juice on sale and it’s less. Recently got generic juice for $2/gallon locally. That gets my cost down to under 30 cents/bottle.

As Americans, we will find a way to make things work as long as we have the freedoms that allow us to.

My opinions are not meant to be empirical evidence of anything, rather a thought provoking exercise.

Brew on!

Ibrew2
 
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AB InBev sold Northern Brewer in 2019.
Those deals don’t mean much.

The deals do "mean much" to many people.

I sense that there was a loss of brand loyalty as a result of the sale of 1) Northern Brewer to ZY Ventures, and 2) AIH /AHS to Blackstreet Capital Holdings [1].

Regional and national competitors - who deliver the same commodity products on time and at lower prices - appear to have taken advantage of this loss of brand loyalty.

Hop suppliers appear to have also taken advantage of this - attempting to 'dis-intermediate' online home brew stores by offering hops directly (quality product, on time, lower price) - and then expanding their product line to include other brewing supplies (e.g.: Yakima Valley Hops offers Muntons DME).

There are other well known examples of 'dis-intermediation' - craft breweries that sell their inventory (e.g.: Bells offers 'Bell's Select Hops" at Bell's General Store).

Value added ingredients - Much like grocery stores that offer freshly prepared meals, at least one online home brew store offers style specific malt extracts (e.g. Williams). There are a couple of brewers here (not me at the moment) who use these products and report enjoyable beer.

I doubt any one business can either 'horizontally integrate' (e.g. personal computer operating systems) or 'vertically integrate' (e.g. mainframe computing) home brew supplies to a level where they are the only viable option.




[1] The other "blackrock" is an asset management company named BlackRock, Inc.
 

Ibrew2

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My comment saying those deals don’t mean much was in response to Kevin’s post saying that AB/InBev sold their interest in 2019, not a general response to those deals happening. The reality is that AB/InBev could still be a player in those aquisitions, weather publicly or through a shill company or an entity acting on their behalf.

The reality is that these deals will happen. It’s up to us to deal with reputable sellers of what we need and to cease doing business with those whom we consider to not be reputable.

Ibrew2
 
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