April 10, 2016

Scranton families buy stake in South Jersey's Flying Fish Brewing

Investment allows growth without selling to 'big beer'

A renowned South Jersey beer maker has sold a stake in its company to a group of Pennsylvania investors. The goal? Keep growing without selling out.

The Lynett and Haggerty families of Scranton have purchased a majority interest in Flying Fish Brewing Co., the Citizens' Voice reports. Those families own Times-Shamrock Communications, which publishes the Luzerne County-based Citizens' Voice, among other newspapers.

According to the Voice, the deal allows Somerdale-based Flying Fish to expand into Northeast Pennsylvania and Baltimore — two places Times-Shamrock has media outlets — while taking advantage of the company's business expertise.

As Fortune notes, although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Flying Fish founder and president Gene Muller will remain the largest individual holder in the company. And according to the magazine, the sale comes as several other craft brewers are faced with the enticing option of selling to large beer corporations like Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Muller told Fortune thanks to a long-term investment from the Lynnett and Haggerty families, he'll be able to expand at his own pace instead of trying to be on every beer shelf and tap around the world:

“We distribute within 100 miles, so we aren’t looking for world domination,” Muller said. “I put 25 years into this and I highly doubt I would throw that away for a big sack of money. Never say never, but my motivation wasn’t the money. That’s never been the driving force.”

Flying Fish starting brewing beer in 1996 at its brewery in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and touted itself as the first craft brewery in South Jersey. It relocated about eight miles south to its larger current brewery in Somerdale in 2015.

Other local brewers are no stranger to trying to find ways to secure their financial futures. Downingtown's Victory Brewing, for example, recently teamed up with a New York craft brewer under a new company managed by a Manhattan private equity firm in an effort to increase production. The deal put the new company in the top 15 craft brewers in the nation.