As the craft beer specialists become genuine competition for the big boys of the industry, is it only a matter of time before the whole micro-brewing scene gets bought out, asks Matthew Dunne-Miles
The small-batch craft beer community is up in arms (watch out for a few knocked-over IPAs) following the news that one of their own has seemingly moved to the ‘dark side’.
London-based Camden Town Brewery today released a statement saying they have gone into “partnership” with global brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev, a multinational with brands including Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois.
The statement from Camden Town Brewery, who featured in our guide to London’s best brewers, reads:
“The ‘craft’ brewing movement has seen incredible growth driven by innovation, quality and daring. Camden Town Brewery has been at the forefront of this revolution. The success and reputation we have built has been nothing short of incredible. That has been thanks to all of you and the great beers we’ve brewed.
“To stay at the forefront of this movement and secure our future success, we have to build a bigger brewery, employ more people and gain access to an international distribution network.
“We can’t do this on our own. That’s why I’m proud to say I’ve signed a deal with AB InBev.”
While the brewery (who have been independent since forming in 2010 and previously funded new endeavours through crowdfunding) saw this partnership as a good thing, many of their Twitter followers politely disagreed:
.@CamdenBrewery from everyone in the UK beer industry….. YOU'VE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!
— DUB (@drinkupbrewing) December 21, 2015
@CamdenBrewery enjoy the payday
— Matt Campbell (@mistercampbell) December 21, 2015
@CamdenBrewery Nah you've sold out…
— nofixedagenda (@NoFixedAgenda) December 21, 2015
— John West (@jwestjourno) December 21, 2015
This isn’t the first buy-out of a craft beer brand by the brewing conglomerate AB InBev, who also purchased the established Arizona-based brand Four Peaks Brewery earlier this month.
It’s hard not to see these sales as the dead canary in the mine shaft for the future of craft beer, microbreweries and small batch breweries.
Whilst companies such as Guinness have attempted to cash in on the trend for ‘high end’ beers by producing their own series of craft ales, this wholesale purchase of breweries shows that maybe the next step for the big brands is just to buy out the competition.
The purchase of these independent brands by the large conglomerates will sound familiar to many of those involved with the indie labels of the music industry in the early ’90s, when respected labels such as Creation Records were hoovered up by the likes of Sony.
They’re effectively buying the smaller brand’s credibility whilst tapping into that loyal audience, and for most indie record labels, it was impossible to compete with the capital of the big boys.
The similarities between the two industries is difficult to overlook, but time will tell whether the likes of Camden Town Brewery is a Creation Records-style bellweather for the beer scene at large.
Main image by Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr / CC