indiebeers view on the Beavertown Heineken sale
By now most people reading this will already have heard todays sad news about Beavertown selling a “minority” stake, that conveniently allows them to build a brand new mega-brewery.
While the news wasn’t that unexpected it does remind us of why we only stock independent beers, and why we think this can only be a bad thing for the wider UK beer industry.
Firstly, whoever pays for the new brewery owns it, so that will be Heineken. Say whatever you like about Beavertown continuing to run the show, at best that will be for the next few years. Beavertown eventually will either fully sell out of will at least be run as though it is part of the Heineken portfolio. We might be wrong, but I doubt it.
Firstly, Clare and I both love Beavertown beers. Over the past few years we’ve shared and drank far too many beers to list. It still brings a smile to my face when I see Gamma Ray on draft. Needless to say, we are truly gutted that this stake sale has happened.
Also, we are realistic. If someone builds up a business and wants to sell or take on investment it’s entirely up to them. We would never dream of telling someone else how to run their business and how to enjoy their success. Well done to everyone at Beavertown for realising your ambitions.
It is our core belief though that unless a brewery is independent and part of the collective battle against big beer, they are not a brand we can support.
Some may ask, why does it really matter, as long as the beer tastes the same. It’s very unlikely that will be the case in the long term, but either way, if that is all that matters to you then fair enough. If however you can remember a day before craft beer, then this really does matter.
The problem isn’t Beavertown, it is Heineken.
Claims by the Heinekens or other mega-brewers of the world, that they are doing this to help craft beer grow and that they want beer consumers to have the best beers available to them, is utter bull-crap.
This one, as with all other acquisitions, is a defensive play. The Heineken brewers couldn’t create a drinkable IPA or barrel aged stout if you put a gun to their head and gave them all of the freshest hops in the world. Their job is to do what the marketing teams decide will get them more shelf space in supermarkets and create a wide enough brand portfolio that pubs won’t need to buy from anyone else. When all else fails they buy another brewery.
Mega-brewers acquiring popular British breweries isn’t a new thing mind. You only have to pay a visit to Burton-on-Trent, the birthplace of IPA. Yes, the actual birthplace of the nation’s favourite craft brew, albeit a very different beer style in craft vs. cask. All that stands there now are mega-breweries with Molson Coors branding splashed all over them. The National Brewing Museum is well worth a visit though!
This more recent wave of acquisitions also isn’t new. Those supermarket craft brands are all portfolio brands of the mega-brewers!
- AB Inbev – Camden Town, Goose Island, KONA (via a stake in another craft brewery)
- Heineken – Brixton, Lagunitas
- Carlsberg – London Fields
- Asahi - Meantime (previously SABMiller until AB Inbev bought SAB and they were forced to sell Meantime!)
- Molson Coors - Blue Moon
- The list goes on…
I realise that I sound like a whining old CAMRA member harping back to better days, and it’s true that I fit that bill. I love cask. I love keg. I’m not afraid to admit it. What I don’t love is mass produced tripe that is brewed in such volume that it gives the mega-brewery owners an incredibly cheap and discounted way to monopolise the market, and stifle competition. It happened before, it can’t happen again.
I won’t pretend that I know everything about the Global beer market, so I could be way off the mark with how this gets played out. No one other than the upper management of the mega-brewers know what they are planning to do next…
The deal has been done though, and all we can do is move on. There are so many other great independent breweries for us to stock that we will wake up tomorrow excited to see what deliveries await. Tonight though, we will be drinking Beavertown. Cans and bottles of great beers produced at an independent brewery, for the last time.