Hungover Grumble – Brewery Takeovers

In many ways, this must be like a dream come true for London Fields Brewery. After many years of hard graft designing, brewing, tasting, brewing again, and selling their beer, the mighty Carlsberg Group has gobbled them up for a tasty £4 million.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen a deal like this. Just last year we saw the world’s biggest drinks company, AB InBev, devour Camden Hells Brewery for £85 million.

I’m sure there’s many business advantages to this kind of deal (there’s certainly an advantage to the former owner of London Fields, who owed £750 grand in unpaid taxes). But I’m yet to be convinced of any advantage to beer drinkers. For although this kind of deal gives these smaller brewers (now subsidiaries) the funding and support they need to expand, it can also transform the way they measure their success. For their goal now is not to make the best beer they possibly can – inevitably, their ultimate aim is now to make the maximum possible profit for their parent company to justify that multi-million pound investment.

That shift in priorities doesn’t need to be a bad thing. Perhaps the best way to improve profit margins for these brewers is simply to maintain quality and increase volume – in which case, fantastic. More often, though, after these acquisitions we see a decline in beer quality in order to cut costs, and fewer new experimental beers to avoid unnerving the risk-averse executives now overseeing the company.

It’s not been so many years since brewing in the USA was utterly dominated by the tasteless “lite” ales of Budweiser, Coors, and Miller (now, incidentally, all part of the AB InBev behemoth). It took a huge amount of effort, invention, and courage for the craft beer revolution to reach this point. We can’t be complacent and allow megabreweries to stifle the experimentation that makes craft beer and real ales so exciting.

So support your local small brewers and let them know you appreciate the variety and quality they offer. Unless you want to see a world where the only beer on tap is InBev Pale Pish™.


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