Untappd (Next Glass) Purchases Hop Culture

Untappd (Next Glass) Purchases Hop Culture

Announced earlier today (roughly around 7AM) the parent company to Untappd and Beer AdvocateNext Glass – has purchased Hop Culture. Next Glass also currently owns OZNR a direct to customer sales platform app.

Hop Culture logo

Hop Culture, a popular site that has organized brewfests and events like Beers With(out) Beards, Juicy Brews, and others, is a digital beer (craft beer) website, blog, and brand. Hop Culture LLC is based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Next Glass is based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Next Glass has a lot of different software, app, and other systems already in place, and the acquisition of Hop Culture adds to their growing list of websites, apps, and other beer and beverage related brands and products.

Next Glass logo

From the Forbes article about the acquisition: “Hop Culture founder and CEO Kenny Gould says the partnership will help Next Glass develop a suite of business tools — a “cohesive ecosystem,” if you will — to streamline experiences for consumers and provide operational efficiencies for businesses in the beverage alcohol space, from producers to wholesalers to retailers.”

In a long piece that Kenny Gould published to Hop Culture after the announcement, he stated: “But first — know that I’m not going anywhere. Neither is my team. Although they’re not regularly in the limelight, Hop Culture Managing Editor John A. Paradiso and Head of Partnerships Grace Weitz each played essential roles in Hop Culture’s growth and development, and we all plan to continue our work with the company in expanded roles.”

From the PRNewswire press release about the news: “The Hop Culture team has built an engaging and important platform with voices and events that resonate within the industry,” said Trace Smith, CEO of Next Glass. “We’re excited and proud to welcome a brand and team with values and a vision that so closely mirror our own.”

Founded in 2017 by journalist Kenny Gould, Hop Culture got its start promoting small, independent craft breweries via their Instagram and digital magazine. Over time, the company also grew to include a popular merchandise line and event series.

“Hop Culture couldn’t be more excited about this partnership,” said Gould. “At Next Glass, Trace and his team have put together the largest network of beer drinkers in the world, and we look forward to working with them to continue producing compelling content and world-class events.”

Untappd Logo

Untappd was founded on October 22nd, 2010 by Greg Avola. From wikipedia: “Untappd is a geosocial networking service and mobile phone application founded by Greg Avola and Tim Mather that allows its users to check in as they drink beers, and share these check-ins and their locations with their friends” As of 2017 it was estimated that Untappd had 9 Million Users and 125 Internal Employees.

Beer Advocate

Beer Advocate was founded in the early days of the internet (and craft beer) – in 1996 as a website for rating and cataloging beer. It along with Rate Beer (founded in 2000) were the pioneers for beer rating systems, until smart phone technology and apps paved the way for Untappd.

The banner for Hop Culture’s Juicy Brews Valentine’s Day beer fest.

Gould: “Breweries (and other alcohol producers) operating a lot of different systems have to rely on disparate tools, and you start to see why that’s a problem when you look at scale, going forward, they’ll have one company and endless integration for a seamless back end experience.”

Gould claims that Hop Culture will keep its same journalism, with the same editors, and same workers (working from home currently) despite the buy-out. He states that it is a mutual buy-out that will offer Hop Culture and Next Glass much for the future. While Hop Culture gets to stay relatively its own thing, Next Glass gets out of the deal – is someone to oversee branding (both internal and client / external needs), a ready to go team that is already connected to the beer community (and with strong ties to a thriving craft beer scene in Pittsburgh), and a brand that has demonstrated success at hosting small, medium, and large scale events and festivals.

According to the Forbes article (under why the purchase was made in 2020): “Seven-year-old Next Glass has grown tremendously this year, from buying Hop Culture, Oznr and some of BeerAdvocate’s assets, to naming a new CEO, taking in investment from Providence Strategic Growth, and hiring its first consort of executives and managers.

Just as Gould gets excited talking about his newfound ability to draw on a far greater pool of resources than his four-year-old beer-magazine startup ever allowed, Next Glass CEO Trace Smith says the deal with Providence, which went through in March, gives his business the resources to do more in the future, including boosting its presence in Europe; recover from COVID losses; and launch initiatives to help the hospitality industry much sooner.      

“We certainly hope this is a temporary speed bump, and we understand that the economic conditions might be soft coming out of it,” Smith tells the Greater Wilmington Business Journal. “But that additional capital will help us regrow more quickly post-COVID-19 and will help us bring more (furloughed) team members back.” For his part, the 30-year-old Gould’s instincts haven’t led him astray. The Pittsburgh son and grandson of entrepreneurs started the Hop Culture website in 2017 as a way to highlight positive stories in the craft beer world. As Gould, who also works as a freelance writer and Forbes contributor, says, “I never set out to start a business. I set out to write about beer.”

Gould is hoping that with the purchase, Hop Culture can expand its efforts to be more inclusive in the beer community. With the goal of expanding Beer Kulture (black / African – American promotions), Beers With(out) Beards (women promotions), and starting a queer beer festival.

About Next Glass (from the PRNewswire Article): “Founded in 2013, Next Glass develops software and creates experiences that connect enthusiasts, retailers, and producers in the beverage alcohol industry. The Next Glass family of brands serves the unique and varied needs of the industry via multiple platforms. Its award-winning Untappd mobile application and BeerAdvocate website are used by millions of beer enthusiasts around the world and its menu publishing software tool, Untappd for Business, enables venues to streamline publication and promotion of their beer, wine, cocktail, and food menus while Oznr, the leader in direct to consumer technology for the craft beverage industry, partners with craft producers to manage their membership programs, can/bottle release pre-sales, and event ticketing. The Company’s recently-introduced Untappd Marketplace enables alcohol resellers to streamline ordering of beer, wine, and spirits from wholesalers and self-distributing breweries. The Company’s Live! division produces world class festivals and events for the Untappd and BeerAdvocate communities.”

Juicy Brews WestFest Promotional Poster

Kenny Gould wrote a long article on his site, giving a history of Hop Culture, as well as telling why he sold to Next Glass. He details the early years, how they became a business, their first festivals (the first of which was in October 2017),

Juicy Brews: Hop Culture Homecoming (photo courtesy of Kenny Gould’s article on Hop Culture, link below)

He goes on to discuss the ‘glory years’, and ‘turning the wheel’, and then goes into the search for his ‘future’ rather than just looking forward to the weekend. As he says in his article: “So I began my search. Luckily, I wasn’t under any sort of deadline. Over the past couple years, the team and I worked against the odds to build an awesome little engine that supported us, our projects, and a great team of freelancers. I could afford to be choosy. I could steward my baby toward a solution that offered the greatest potential for a continuation of the mission, practices, and values we found important.

At first, I thought about approaching venture capital. I gathered my materials and started the research to find a great partner. But before I could send my first email, a Forbes interview changed my life.

Back in 2018, during a Brewers Association dinner at the Union Square Café, I met a Forbes writer who told me her friend in the food and drink section was looking for new contributors. What the hell, I thought. I can always do some more writing. So I threw my name in the hat and started contributing a couple articles a month, mostly highlighting underrepresented voices in brewing and the beer industry.”

You can read more from Kenny Gould at his article on Hop Culture here: “The Next Chapter”.

From his article on Hop Culture, Gould says: “Additionally, thank you. The past four years have exceeded all expectations I had for an exciting life. And I’ve been moved and inspired by every single person I’ve met along the way. From brewers to distributors, from retailers to fans and everyone in between, I’m in your debt. This ride has been nothing short of incredible.

And the best part? We’re only getting started.”

And to think, says Gould, Hop Culture started as a “glorified blog. I was doing it because it was fun.” (This certainly sounds familiar…….. I think I’ve used this line often times when co-workers, friends, and family ask me how my silly ‘blog’ thing is going; I’m just doing it for fun.)

For more information on the purchase, you can check out the following links:

You can check out some of our latest craft beer news, brewery news, and industry news here: “BREWERY / INDUSTRY NEWS”. Including our latest about the BREW – The Museum of Beer, which is set to have an online exhibit opening on December 15th (Tuesday), 2020. The Museum will eventually be open in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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-B. Kline

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