Tempe-based Four Peaks brewery bought by Anheuser-Busch

PHOENIX (AP) — A growing Tempe, Arizona-based craft brewer that pushed for a new state law expanding production limits on microbreweries this year has been bought by beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, the companies announced Friday. The deal includes Four Peaks Brewing Company's two Tempe pubs, one...

PHOENIX (AP) — A growing Tempe, Arizona-based craft brewer that pushed for a new state law expanding production limits on microbreweries this year has been bought by beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, the companies announced Friday.

The deal includes Four Peaks Brewing Company's two Tempe pubs, one in Scottsdale and a location at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, as well as its statewide craft beer distribution business. Terms of the deal set to close in the first quarter of 2016 were not disclosed.

Anheuser-Busch said in a news release that the deal is the sixth craft brewery purchase by the company's specialty craft and import brand business known as The High End.

Four Peaks was founded in 1996 by Jim Scussel, Randy Schultz and Andy Ingram, who issued statements saying they hope partnering with Anheuser-Busch expands the reach of the company.

"As the leading craft brewery in Arizona, we're proud of what we've built and of our brewing heritage," Scussel said. "We're excited to build on that success with The High End."

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill in March increasing the production cap for state microbreweries as Four Peaks neared the old limit. The microbrewery got the cap changed twice previously to allow it to keep its license and still own and run restaurants.

He praised the deal on Twitter, saying "great beer and hard work pay off!" But others on social media lamented the loss of local control of the brewery.

The new law allows microbreweries to keep up to seven retail locations and brew up to 6.2 million gallons of beer per year. After that, they'll have to give up their restaurants and apply for a producer license.

Four Peaks expects to brew about 2.1 million gallons in 2015. It will continue to brew its flagship Scottish-style ale, Kilt Lifter, that accounts for more than 60 percent of the brewery's sales, as well as other specialty brews.

Americans' enthusiasm for microbrews reached new heights last year as craft brewers accounted for 11 percent of the U.S. beer market, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group for small, independent brewers.

But the popularity had pushed craft breweries up against the country's longstanding three-tier system that governs the beer industry. It was designed to prevent mega breweries such as Anheuser-Busch from controlling beer production, distribution and retail sales at restaurants and stores. The three tiers consist of large breweries, distributors and retailers.

Big brewers have noticed, with small craft breweries being snapped up as companies like Anheuser-Busch seek to tap into the market.

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