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Another beloved craft beer has found a deep-pocketed backer

Jonathan Marino

(DogFish Head Brewery)
Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA.

A popular Delaware beer with a cult following is taking on a private-equity investor, the latest sign of craft beer's growing clout in the industry.

The New York private-equity firm LNK Partners is taking a minority position in Dogfish Head Brewery, according to the BeerNet blog. The company and the private-equity firm did not return calls for comment.

Dogfish Head has a dedicated following of beer aficionados in part thanks to its focus on high-quality ingredients. In 2014, the brewery was ranked among the best-selling craft beers in the US.

The deal comes as M&A in the beer industry has gotten, well, heady. Shares of SABMiller recently soared on the news that Anheuser-Busch InBev was looking to buy out the company.

But the large beermakers have also completed a string of acquisitions of their tiny rivals to cater to many different tastes instead of just cranking out one bland brand.

Big beer is spending to fend off an all-out assault from craft beer. In recent years, the number of small independent brewers in the US has swelled to more than 3,000.

Last year, Anheuser-Busch InBev bought the craft brewers Blue Point (New York) and 10 Barrel Brewing Company (Oregon). In 2011, it guzzled down Goose Island, based in Illinois.

Anheuser-Busch InBev's target is also playing the craft-beer game. Within its portfolio, SABMiller's investments include Franciscan Well brewery. The conglomerate is home to dozens of beer brands across the globe and looking to expand its profile of craft beers.

To put the industry's smaller brewers' clout into perspective for stock market investors: The Boston-based brewery Samuel Adams (which by size has become too big for "craft beer" status) has appreciated at more than double the rate of that of either SABMiller or Anheuser-Busch InBev over the past five years. Its shares are up by more than 200%.

As for the changes Dogfish Head will try to go public, don't expect an IPO for this IPA: In an email from CEO Sam Calagione, BeerNet quotes the boss as saying the company was "not a path toward IPO."

The industry's rising clout can be best summed up with this chart:

Sam Adams Craft Beer Revolution Chart

(Skye Gould/Business Insider)
Production of craft beer has been on the rise recently.

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