The full details of the deal have yet to be revealed, but the move came after a period of the two breweries working successfully together. It’s believed that Dark Star has been exploring various sources of financing to fuel continued expansion in an increasingly competitive market and that the acquisition was one of the alternatives being considered.
Many commentators (including us here at Original Gravity) have predicted that 2018 will see a sharp increase in the number of craft breweries acquired by bigger players. While sales of craft beer overall continue to rise sharply, from a brewer’s perspective trading conditions are increasingly tough in a market that some estimates put at over 2,000 UK brewers.
Dark Star was founded in 1994 in the cellar of Brighton’s Evening Star pub and went on to be a pioneer of the UK craft beer movement, with Hophead being an early champion of the US hop-forward pale ale style.
Fuller’s, founded in 1845, has won respect for its stance on the burgeoning craft beer scene, becoming a founder member of the London Brewers’ Alliance, recreating old recipes from its archives and recently launching ‘Fullers & Friends’, a series of collaborations with breweries including Thornbridge, Cloudwater and Fourpure.
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Brewing will continue at Dark Star’s Partridge Green site, Managing Director James Cuthbertson will remain at the helm and the brewer will continue to operate as a standalone business.
James Cuthbertson said: “Since our inception in 1994, we have continuously grown from those early days in The Evening Star Pub in Brighton to the current brewery in Partridge Green. The partnership with Fuller’s, another independent brewery with fantastic heritage and great beer at its very core, will allow us to take the brewery to the next level. The deal means we will continue to do what we do, but gives us huge opportunities to brew more one-off small batch beers hand-in-hand with exploring the export market and expanded bottle and can formats.”
He added: “We’ve always described Dark Star as more of a hobby that got out of control than a business, an ethos that will remain at the centre of what we do and what we’re about, after all, beer should be fun and accessible.”
Simon Dodd, Managing Director of The Fuller’s Beer Company, said: “Following on from the success we have had with our acquisition of Cornish Orchards, we have been looking at similar opportunities to invest in and work with young, exciting companies that have a similar ethos and commitment to quality as Fuller’s. Following discussions with James and the team at Dark Star, we could see that we could add real benefit to the Dark Star business and it provides a great new range of delicious cask beers that will enhance the Fuller’s portfolio.
“Both Fuller’s and Dark Star are brewers with quality and taste at their heart. I just can’t wait to see how Dark Star innovates further with the support of Fuller’s and access to our expertise in brewing, retailing and business elements such as finance, purchasing and IT systems.”