18 August 2022

Lion sells UK craft brewers Magic Rock and Fourpure to Odyssey Inns

United Kingdom | It was not to be. Australian brewer Lion announced the sale of its UK-based operations, including the Magic Rock and Fourpure breweries to the newly launched venture Odyssey Inns, effective 8 August 2022. The sale marks Lion’s retreat from the UK.

Whether Lion leaves with the tail between its legs – the pun was impossible to resist – is an open question. Financial details were not disclosed.

You have to give it to Australian brewers: they like to think big and act even bigger. Having acquired the craft brewer Little Creatures from Fremantle, Western Australia, in 2012, Lion wasted no time and took the brand international by setting up microbreweries as far away as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Taipei, Auckland, London, and San Francisco.

Lion’s global expansion

Even before Lion opened its flagship microbrewery in London in 2019, it snapped up the London craft brewer Fourpure (2018) and Yorkshire’s Magic Rock (2019). At the time, Magic Rock was considered a leading UK craft brewer, selling 16,000 hl beer in 2018. With such a portfolio of domestic and international brands, Lion expected to conquer a sizeable share of the UK’s craft beer market. In retrospect, this was overly ambitious as the UK already sported more than 2,000 craft breweries.

Luckily, other opportunities for expansion beckoned over in the US, where Lion subsequently acquired craft breweries New Belgium (2019) and Bell’s (2021), both of which were far bigger than any of its previous deals. Combined the US breweries sell more than 1.5 million hl.

It was suggested at the time that some of these brands would be suitable for a global rollout. However, the covid pandemic slowed these plans, as did closures of Little Creatures’ sites in Hong Kong and Singapore in 2021. The San Francisco venue was rebranded as a New Belgium brewpub in 2020.

Despite this, Lion continued to strengthen its craft beer portfolio in Australia with the purchase of craft brewer Stone & Wood in September 2021.

Beating a retreat from the UK

Seeing that the pandemic hit its UK business particularly hard, Lion began to count its losses.

Odyssey Inns has now been named as the buyer of Magic Rock, Fourpure and the Little Creatures venue.

Little is known about the newly set up firm Odyssey, except that it is headed by Stephen Cox, who has been involved in several bar and restaurant ventures, including the co-founding of craft brewer Utopian from Devon in 2017. Utopian has a capacity to brew 16,000 hl beer annually. Following the deal with Lion, Mr Cox stepped down as non-executive chairman of Utopian.

The sale will see Lion focus on its businesses in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

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