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This week Camden Town Brewery was taken over by AB InBev for £85 million. **The brewery was started in 2010 and had just raised £2.75 million via crowdfunding and sold a 20% stake for £20 million to overseas investors. *The purpose of this fundraising was to build a second brewery on a separate site as the current plant in Camden Town had been running at capacity for a while. *These investors will make an immediate profit on their investment, but that is not the reason why over ten thousand people invested in the crowdfunding. *They invested because they wanted to support an independent craft brewer who made good beer. *The owner said that everything would stay the same, but allow them to reach a wider market. *However, looking at other craft brewers who have been taken over by multinational brewers, they want the craft cache with craft beer prices, but without the costs of making it. **Ingredients are substituted for cheaper options, eventually brewing is moved to one of their mega breweries and the whole ethos of the company is diluted. *A prime example of this happening is Doom Bar, based in Cornwall who were brought out by Molson Coors to be their “real ale brand” where both of the above happened and Ab InBev’s Goose Island where the cost of production was reduced by degrading quality of products. **Reaction in the market was immediate, Brewdog removed the products from sale the minute the announcement was made, and social media were vociferous in their condemnation of the deal, especially as the brewery were one of higher profile poster boys of craft beer.
My opinion is once you are part of a multinational mega brewer, you lose the craft tag, you become just another brand in their portfolio. *Of course there is the whole argument of the definition of “craft”. *In total contrast to Camden Town Brewery you have Vocation Brewery, based in Cragg Vale above Mytholmroyd. ***I visited the brewery just before christmas to collect my beer for the festive season, a six pack of each of their core beers, the beers this brewery produces never fails to impress and I am not the only one of this opinion, so christmas this year has the delights of Pride and Joy, Heart and Soul, Bread and Butter and Life and Death awaiting me. *The beers are not cheap (compare to regular shop canned beer prices) at £2 per 330ml can, but the flavour makes these more than worth the money. **I love visiting breweries as the smell of a brewery is one of the best odours in the world, the lovely yeasty smell which drifts out and when you get the chance to smell up close the hop smell in the vessel as it infuses into the beer as it is brewed. **From the open doors you can see the entire operations of the brewing plant at Vocation, with lines of silver vessels contributing to different stages of production. **The shop is small side room from the production area and one sign that a business is small scale is that it is still cash only in this world of even small cafes offering card payments and the increasing proliferation of contactless payment. *The two man operation, with the director also being head brewer and the brewing being at the heart of the business is what endears me to this brewer and other like them. *The closer those who control the business are to the production of their products, the more care that goes into making them. When your top man is the finance guy, that is where the disconnect begins and money starts to take over rather than the most important thing, what you make, and I can see this happening in the medium term with Camden Town Brewery and AB InBev when their people start getting moved into the day to day operations team of Camden Town. **
Many “craft beer” drinkers are already saying they will not buy Camden Town beers already, and what have they to lose, if Camden Town want to lose the hearts of their core customers then there is another 1000 brewers waiting to take their place. ****A few years ago another London based brewer got taken over in a similar fashion when Meantime Brewery got purchased by SABMiller, becoming their “craft” offering. *With the merger between SABMiller and AB InBev, Meantime has now been put up for sale by SABMiller in their disposal of brands, others including Peroni. *A deal is already in place to transfer worldwide rights to the Millers and Coors family of brands back to Miller Coors, the separate US / Canadian based brewing company. **So after losing the “craft beer” followers and being absorbed into the mainstream beer world, they are being cast back out into the world, if they are purchased by a large or medium multinational brewers, the status quo remains the same, but if not they will lose the enhanced distribution chain that SABMiller offered and have to win back the drinkers and outlets on their own with far fewer resources than they are used to. **
You may take the devils pot of gold, but you dance to his tune and when he is done with you, you may be left to fend for yourself and it is wise to remember history has a habit of repeating itself