Wednesday, 27 June 2018

So. What's Been Happening?

I've been away and busy with some personal matters, so while the odd Twitter comment kept me in touch while dodging rain in Dumbarton and Albania, I have spent a little time since returning, catching up with what's been going on.  The main chatter is about brewery takeovers - well nearly takeovers in this case. The airwaves are being choked by the dreadful news that one (more) of the darlings of the crafterati has fallen off the shining path and found itself in the arms of, in the eyes of some at least, an unsuitable suitor.  Yes folks, it's the Beavertown Show.  Now reading blogs and other social media, there is lots of righteous indignation as well as a smattering of insight and pragmatism.  You'll have, like as not, read most of it already.  Frankly I can't get too excited about it. I've only ever had the odd Beavertown beer and now, if predictions are to be believed, I'm likely to have much more of it available soon as the unsuitable suitor (Heineken) makes it widely available, but at a much smaller price.  Not exactly a losing position for most. Unless the recipe changes, but that won't happen, will it?

Of course takeovers are nothing new. In my time as a beer drinker I've seen many of them. The usual thing is that it will be good for consumers. Economies of scale, a bigger organisation helping out where needed and of course, the beer will be matched. It won't change. No Siree. But of course, change it did. Or it disappeared altogether.  So there is precedent, though then it was outlets (pubs) the predator was after, but now it is brand and volumes.  The fundamental reason remains the same - to protect and increase market share - whether by acquisition and absorption - or by owning the production one way or another. Elimination of the opposition is the name of the game I reckon. Mind you, in a lot of cases in the bad old days, it wasn't usually a marriage of convenience, but a shotgun wedding, the bride having been knocked up by the suitor by way of a hostile takeover. Nowadays, the complaint seems to be that the bride was busy behind the scenes prettying up for marriage and making herself a "catch". Same outcome, but usually given the ownership, a willing partnership.

Having read quite a few comments, I'd recommend Roger Protz's take. He's seen it all before and I reckon he has the right of it. My comment on Twitter and Roger's response is reproduced below.

A final thought from me. Business is business, though the ambition to build something called (slightly pornographically) Beaverworld is given as the reason for this. Oh and a shiny new 270,000 barrel brewery as a competitor might well explain the outrage by some. In the real world though there is still plenty decent beer to go at, so move along. Nothing much to see - for the time being at least.

Another thing to catch my eye is the carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage.  CO2  is needed in reasonable sized breweries for many things other than injecting it into beer, so it might affect some of us a bit. I think though this is more good headline stuff than a real worry. CO2 will be back in a gas bottle near you soon.

Right.That's under my belt. Think I'll go to the pub tonight and see if the Beavertown is on offer yet. 

Two beers that both required CO2 are shown to illustrate this article.  One is craft and was reassuringly expensive. The other was Albanian and therefore wasn't.

 I do feel the pain of some. My beloved Higsons Bitter has gone forever. It still hurts.


Curmudgeon said...

The vast majority of the family brewers who were taken over (including Higson's) were willing sellers - hostile takeovers were pretty rare.

Tandleman said...

True, butbmostly due to behind the scenes persuasion. Hardy and Hansons, Home, Matthew Brown, Mansfield all did not want to be taken over to a greater or lesser extent.

Plenty more gave up the ghost for filthy lucre. Plus ca change.

As for Higsons, don't get me started. Boddingtons shot themselves in the arse too. That wasn't uncommon.

Phil said...

I don't know what went on with Marston's, but it wasn't good for the beer. And hasn't been good, for other breweries' beer, ever since.

My take is boringly predictable - I think the beer is almost certain to suffer, so I'm agin it. Even the Beavertown range is likely to be slimmed down, I'd have thought, although, ironically, this may be less of an issue in a macro/indie takeover than it is when a larger independent is doing the taking-over (how many Dark Star beers are going to be available in five years' time?). My grumpiness is only allayed by the fact that I don't really give a damn about Beavertown beers - tried a couple, they were fine, that was it.

Phil said...

Oh, wait, I have got another reason to be grumpy (you can never have too many...). I thought of this last year, when I was at the Barbican and couldn't find much to drink that wasn't from Camden or Meantime - neither of which is actually a brewery, as we know. But they've got the look and a bit of street cred, so they work in that environment in a way that Stella or even Peroni wouldn't. There is a definite demand out there for "something crafty" - often at the low-volume end, licensed cafes, theatre bars & the like - and it's increasingly easy to fill it without ever going near a brewery that's actually independent. If the Beavertown news is, effectively, a takeover, that'll narrow the opportunities for independents even further.

Cooking Lager said...

If you have a Private Limited Company, no one can make you sell.

Hostile takeovers are only possible in Public Limited Companies.

Oh and hostile really only means against the advice of the board, not against the wishes of the shareholders.

Tandleman said...

Indeed Cookie. Behind the scenes persuasion though. As said. Short term v long term etc.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

Principles are fine until someone offers you a suitcase full of money.
Welcome to capitalism.

John Lamb said...

I believe that you can still buy Higsons in Liverpool

RedNev said...

John L: Liverpool Organic Brewery did produce Higsons for a few years, and they carefully devised a recipe that was as close to the old Higsons as they manage. They didn't own the name and after a while the licence to use it was withdrawn. Liverpool Organic, who did own the recipe, continued to brew the beer with similar-looking pump clips under the name 'Bier Head', which is still available.

Meanwhile, the owner of the Higsons brand has set up a new brewery, but has made it clear that he has no intention of trying to recreate the old brews. I came across one a week or so ago and thought it was okay, but nothing special.

This means you can now have a pint of Higsons that doesn't bear any resemblance whatsoever to the original Higsons Bitter, or can have a pint of Liverpool Organic Bier Head which does.

RedNev said...

Re: the CO2 shortage. I was in a pub in Southport last Friday and saw a sign apologising for the lack of lager because of the CO2 shortage. Perhaps it's not quite just a passing headline after all.

Tandleman said...

Now I didn't know about Liverpool Organic Bier Head. I'm due back in Scousely soon and will seek it out.