by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine Zero Gravity Craft Brewery in Burlington announced Tuesday, June 16, that it has recently reached an agreement to purchase brewing equipment and expand into the previous Magic Hat Brewing facility in South Burlington. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal is expected to close July 1 and is subject to federal permitting. Magic Hat Brewing Company will shift production to FIFCO USA’s newly modernized brewery in Rochester, NY. Some Magic Hat beers, including select packages of #9, are already brewed there.
As Magic Hat moves to Rochester, NY, Zero Gravity will utilize this space to expand their production and packaging capacity. This expansion will allow them to fulfill the increase in demand for their core products, such as Conehead and Green State Lager.
Magic Hat acknowledged it was selling and moving out in a Tweet also issued June 16 (see statement below).
Zero Gravity said in a statement that it will continue to produce the smaller specialty and seasonal beer that drive the creativity and excitement the brand is known for.
Zero Gravity spokesperson Emma Shea told VBM: "We will be doing Research and Development for the first phase, over the next couple of weeks and then officially moving in over the next few months."
As a Vermont-based brewery, Zero Gravity is excited to be taking over a facility where so much of Burlington’s craft beer history was created. As out production needs continue to grow, this facility right down the road from out Pine Street (Burlington) brewery will allow us to increase our efficiency, while the existing infrastructure will allow us to stay true to our environmental impact goals,” said Matt Wilson, Chief Executive Officer. “The addition of this new facility will allow us to expand our production without sacrificing the space needed for the creative development and innovation that our brewery is known for.”
“As we found ourselves needing more production space, this felt like the most organic and elegant way to expand. We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to increase our brewing capacity while staying rooted in the same community where were began,” Wilson said.
“As one of the first craft breweries in Vermont, Magic Hat has created a storied history in Burlington. From Alan Newman starting the brewery here, to the wildly creative team who concocted Mardi Gras which attracted crowds of people, our brewery and people have been part of the Vermont community for 26 years,” said Rich Andrews, Chief Executive Officer, FIFCO USA. “Our ties to Burlington made this decision very difficult. In the end, this was the best long term opportunity for both us and our friends at Zero Gravity.
“With the capabilities and capacity of our new brewery and the evolution of Magic Hat, moving the production to Rochester provided the best long term opportunity. We have been brewing a portion of Magic Hat in Rochester for nearly a decade. Having one brewery with new equipment, creates consistent, high quality beer that our Magic Hat consumers have come to expect,” said Andrews.
Magic Hat currently employs 43 people in South Burlington. Employees in brewing and operations will be considered for open positions with Zero Gravity. All Magic Hat employees leaving FIFCO USA will receive severance.
Zero Gravity began in Burlington in 2004 and will continue to operate its original Brewpub at American Flatbread and at its taproom and production space on Pine Street, in Burlington’s South End, in addition to this new South Burlington facility.
The Magic Hat Brewing Company and Performing Arts Center was started in Burlington in 1994 by serial entrepreneur Alan Newman and brewer Bob Johnson. It moved to South Burlington in 1997.
Newman built the "Artifactory" in South Burlington, a combination of a modern brewery full of huge, stainless steel tanks and a visitors' center. Newman left Magic Hat in 2010.
The brewer had sponsored Burlington's Mardi Gras parade for 24 years until Magic Hat announced in March that it would scale the celebration back. Ultimately the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all Mardi Gras plans.
Magic Hat was sold to Pyramid Breweries in 2008, which was then acquired by the maker of Genesee (North American Breweries) in 2010. NAB was subsequently purchased in 2012 by the Costa Rican company FIFCO USA (Florida Ice & Farm Co), headquartered in Rochester, NY.
FIFCO is one of the 10 largest beer companies in the nation, according to its Website. FIFCO brews, packages, imports, markets and sells its brands through an independent network of wholesalers throughout the US.
The brand portfolio includes: the Labatt Family of beers; Genesee Brewing Co; Seagram’s Escapes and Seagram’s Escapes Spiked; Pura Still; Hemptails; Magic Hat; Portland Brewing Co; and Pyramid Brewing Co. Additionally, FIFCO USA is the US importer of Imperial from Costa Rica.
Magic Hat entrance, South Burlington. Google Maps image.