Redhook Brewery, a Seattle institution and a craft brew pioneer, is changing hands again four years after being bought out by megacorp Anheuser-Busch InBev. According to the Seattle Times, Redhook and seven other brands are being purchased for $85 million by the cannabis giant Tilray.
RedHook was founded in a Ballard transmission shop in 1981, when the craft beer industry was in its infancy. In 1986, it released its most well-known beer, the Extra Special Bitter, which is still a mainstay of Seattle supermarket shelves, and in 1994 Anheuser-Busch bought a 25 percent stake in the brewery. This investment enabled the company to expand, and it built a massive new brewing facility in Woodinville (and another one in New Hampsire) in 1996. In 2008, Redhook merged with fellow Northwest-based brewers Widmer Brothers to form the Craft Beer Alliance, and that company was bought entirely by Anheuser-Busch in 2019.
This acquisition by Tilray, which also bought Widmer Brothers, Shock Top, Blue Point, and a handful of other beer brands, is another chapter in this fairly convoluted story.
Tilray isn’t a household name, but the company is a major player in the burgeoning worldwide cannabis industry. It was founded in 2014 and became one of the first licensed producers of medical cannabis in Canada before expanding operations to Portugal, Germany, and New Zealand, among other places. In 2018 it became the first cannabis company to be publicly traded on a major U.S. stock exchange, and in 2021 it merged with Aphria to create the largest cannabis firm in the world in terms of revenue and reach; it currently has a market cap of $2 billion. So Redhook has gone from being owned by Anheuser-Busch to being owned by what you could call the Anheuser-Busch of the cannabis world. According to Tilray, it’s now the fifth-largest craft beer producer in the U.S.
This bit of business news likely won’t have much immediate impact on consumers. That big Woodinville brewery was closed by the Craft Brew Alliance in 2017, which brews its beer (including Redhook) in Portland, Oregon. Redhook’s only remaining brewing facility in Seattle is the Brewlab in Capitol Hill and there’s no sign of that changing.