Beer Summit

What do craft brewers really think about big brewers buying them up?

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Up for debate: thoughts behind big beer buying small beer
Up for debate: thoughts behind big beer buying small beer

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Following two major investments from big breweries into smaller UK craft brands, three small-scale producers outline what they think about acquisitions.

Heineken recently acquired a stake​ in Beavertown, while Fourpure was bought out​ by Australian firm Lion, each case bringing with it both criticism and praise.

Here, three brewers from across the UK set out their thoughts on big brewers buying out smaller producers in a panel session at The Morning Advertiser’s ​Beer Summit hosted by food and drink reporter James Beeson.

Mike Marcus, founder of the Chorlton Brewing Co, said:

“We don’t have a large proportion of the beer market. There is room for all of us, but the very small amount of percentage that mainstream is losing to us is trying to be clawed back by them.

“Consumers are given a very clear message and they don’t need to be misguided by large brands with big advertising budgets. My concern is the survival of my business and the survival of my peers’.”

Ed Mason, founder and managing director The Five Points Brewing Co, said: ​ 

“Every acquisition by a big guy of craft brewers is a real vote of confidence in the industry. Independent craft breweries are the innovators, we are being creative and pushing the boundaries, and the big brewers are buying the independents up because they are responding to that innovation”

“For every time that Beavertown might be available in a Star pub, it’s increasing the quality of beer in pubs. The quality of the [Beavertown] beer could be compromised in the future, but I think provided there is genuine transparency, there’s no concern.”

Christian Townsley, director of North Bar/North Brewing Co, said:

“I think the sale of someone like Beavertown is great because that means a number of pubs won’t stock it anymore and that means there’s more space for us. Big beer can’t replicate what we do. We’re not all millionaires and we’re working really hard.”

On the future of crowdfunding for craft breweries

MM: ​“I think we’re right at the beginning of it, there’s a bit of a bubble around it and that’s why we’re doing it now. We’re just starting to understand how people are buying into it. I think crowdfunding is a great way to raise funds when you don’t have that behind you.”

CT:​ “We are thinking about crowdfunding for next year. We don’t have access to a lot of money and we’re definitely going to do it next year because the bank won’t fund our aspirations.

“We’re going to connect with our loyal customer base and hopefully give them something back in growing the business. It’s also a great way to grow a brand, a lot of brands were unknown before they were crowdfunded.”

Do taprooms pose a threat to the traditional pub?

EM​: “It depends how you define a taproom. It’s a positive for the on-trade in general because if you go to a brewery to drink the beer where it’s made, then you will want to go out into the on-trade and buy it again.”

CT:​ “It’s colouring in the brewing process. It was important for us to have that theatre and make the brewery like Willy Wonker’s chocolate factory. It fills the picture and engages more people in craft beer. I don’t think it will negatively affect the on-trade.”

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