Buying craft: AB InBev & Camden Town

By Jessica Mason contact

- Last updated on GMT

Buying craft: AB InBev & Camden Town

Related tags: Camden town brewery, Brewing

Imagine you started every relationship with the knowledge that it would end in divorce.

... and maybe try and imagine you were OK with that. Mostly, because divorce doesn't represent the end of something for you, more the pinnacle of marriage - the reward for the people in it.

A celebration of all the success you managed to achieve before you got to a point where someone looked at what you had and told you how brilliant you were at it. So good that they were going to give you the chance to have your own hareem.

What. An. Offer.

It's OK, your ex will still be around. Hell, you'll still be there running the finances and overseeing how they raise the kids.

But, what about all those people who threw confetti at your wedding? How do they feel?

Understandably, a bit gutted. But why? It's not their marriage.

This is why: what they championed was love, not success. Those guests to the party will consider this next step a contradiction of the values they backed. 

Yesterday, Camden Town Brewery signed a deal with AB InBev​. Jasper Cuppaidge has said he will remain as CEO and that the decision was based on what is best for the business. He says it will help with the opening of the brewer's second north London brewery, this time in Enfield. 

Plenty of business people build companies with an exit strategy in mind. Only, the craft beer movement felt, to so many people, like a crusade against the blandness of the beers that global brewers had inflicted on our pubs and palates for years.

The big, global, mass-producing companies that pump money into branding and font glamour rather than focus on the beer, it's ethos and the trade.

What the people who crowdfund and support craft breweries buy into is as much the revolt against that kind of domination as it is the beer. That is why everyone is so cross.

But everything is for sale. Sadly, we can’t seem to escape that fact.

The reason Cuppaidge is getting such a hard time on Twitter is because as Camden Town Brewery grew, it sought the support of people. And they wanted it to grow and be successful. But not at the expense of a sale to a big company.

I visited Camden Town Brewery when it was just Cuppaidge under only one railway arch with a few picnic benches out the front and some bunting hanging up. The brewery tap was just that: a tap. Every time I revisited north London, there had been tremendous progressions. One arch had become many arches. The brewery bar a lively go-to venue with phenomenal beers. I've always been so happy for what has been achieved. I also believe in the quality of the beer the team produces.

Cuppaidge has said he will stay at the helm. That beer and creativity will stay at the heart of what he and his team does at Camden. That he simply wants to make his beers available to more people. 

I believe him because I have no reason not to believe him. Cuppaidge is earnest enough to mean what he says and his principles are good.

But, just a few questions: does AB InBev have a track record of caring about its buys? Does AB InBev have a flat management structure? Does it brew beer for the love of beer? Does it look after people? Does it value and understand how and why a trend starts?

Sadly, I'm not quite so confident on that side of things. 

That scene​ in the film It's a Wonderful Life​ rings true.

AB InBev has wanted something for a while now that it couldn't get its hands on. So it just gets its chequebook out.

The brewing business is turning into Pottersville. Only, I wish there were more people like George Bailey.

Cuppaidge is a great businessman and an all-round nice guy. I just don't know yet if I can say the same for his new bosses.

Related topics: Beer

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