Power Lunch Byte: Boulevard Brewery’s John McDonald on Duvel Buyout

Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewery wrapped up its sale to Belgian Brewer Duvel Moortgat in late 2013. Boulevard Founder John McDonald updated us on what’s ahead for 2014.

Krista Klaus: The sale is closed, so now what?

John McDonald: Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We have a lot of new initiatives to hammer out and work out. There’s a lot of merging of the sales organizations and logistical things that we really are in the middle of…  If you look at two companies, Ommegang and Duvel in the U.S. are a third the size of Boulevard. We were larger. We are in much large market territory, so that’s a good thing for us, so we’ll be able to piggy back and have synergies in those organizations.

KK: Why did Boulevard choose Duvel as a merger partner?

JM: They’re not a huge company, but they’re a 130-year-old brewery, fifth generation. I really liked the idea. I think the world is becoming very global, but people love local, and I think a big part of their strategy is to have a global view of the world but– like Boulevard– make it a local thing. I think it’s a good idea and I’m totally on board.

KK: Do you feel Boulevard extends its reach because of this deal?

JM: It will take a year or two before we fully can exercise this idea, but I think Boulevard has great potential in Europe. When I started my brewery, Americans loved imported beer. And they didn’t think American breweries could make great beer. I would say absolutely the U.S. is the best brewing country in the world.

KK: Why did you feel this was the right time for a sale?

JM: I hadn’t thought about selling the brewery until a couple years ago. I woke up one morning and said, “It’s time to do something.”

I think it will be a really good thing for Kansas City.

KK: For business owners out there building a brand, when do you know the time is right to shop yourself around?

JM: For me, it was an age and timing thing, and also having all my net worth tied up in the brewery. I wanted to spread that out a bit. Those were the two things that drove me. I have always been big proponent that you should spend more time running your business than thinking of how to get out of it throughout your career.

KK: Other hands are now on your “baby.” How has that been for you?

JM: I really like these guys. I haven’t met any I don’t like. It makes it really easy. They haven’t said, “We have the answer. Move over.” They’ve said, “How can we make this thing really work?”  They’re good guys and have right approach to growing breweries.

KK: What is biggest challenge now?

JM: There’s a lot of things we have to work through. The sales thing is a challenge, and I think we will have that put together in a month or two. The hard thing will be how do we create a common company with so many brands and how that works, so that’s going to take a year or two, and then the logistics of warehousing and shipping and all those things will be huge.