Whilst it was very far from a surprise to anyone who wasn’t doing PR for Beavertown, (who were still denying it, even as I wrote this,http://beerinsider.com/amateur-drinker-loses-taste-for-beavertown-and-its-extravaganza/), June saw by far the biggest upheaval in London’s nascent scene.
You will surely already know about the Heineken/Beavertown nuptials and most of this blog is devoted to it.
Owner Logan Plant had been vocally against “Big Beer”, most notably in his commencement speech at last year’s BeaverEx, but the press release announcing the deal was hypocritical: it wittered on, without actually mentioning the deal, before ludicrously calling Heineken an “independent family firm”, with a “passion for quality”. Just be honest, you did it for the money, which is a perfectly human thing to do.
The capital injection is to build BeaverWorld, which is either just a massive brewery, in which case, just call it that or it is a White Elephant.
Most importantly, in a world of loose monetary policy globally, and buoyant asset, most notably equity, prices there are many other sources of funding.
Why reject private equity? The press release claims that PE firms just want to maximize return on investment. Heineken are a listed company, so its Board has a legal obligation to do exactly the same! There will be a whole set of legal covenants as to how exactly the £40 million can be spent.
Beavertown could have floated a portion of the company properly, with Stock Exchange rules, rather than silly crowd-funding schemes, which obviously can’t raise the money.
If BeaverWorld is more than a brewery, why not look to a hotel company?
There was no need to go to big beer.
This, http://protzonbeer.co.uk/comments/2018/06/23/big-beer-moves-in-on-beavertown, from Roger Protz, who knows far more about beer than I do, is an excellent summary of the way in which macro beer companies sacrifice quality for consistency and lower costs.
However, the most important problem is that Big Beer is desperate to kill small, independent producers and will engage in all legal behavior to achieve that aim.
They buy up small brands, and package them so the average punter doesn’t know that they are no longer independent. They use their financial might to systematically out-spend on promotions/advertising and loss-lead, which each small independent can’t match, and they try to block taps through bundled packages.
Logan is free to sell to whomever he wishes and I am free to not drink Heineken/Beavertown.
Onto the reactions later, but in order to have some flow to the article, I will discuss June’s best event:
Fuller’s, a Stock Market-listed company who do care about quality and don’t set out to kill craft, were fantastic hosts of the superb London Brewers Alliance (LBA) free-pour festival, putting on a full range of their cask, including Past Master 1981 ESB, and a couple of Vintage Ales, all stocked in surprisingly generous quantities.
LBA event at Fuller’s
As an investor in Bohem Brewery it was gratifying to see that beer writer James Beeson picked Bohem’s Amos as one of his top five (https://www.beesononbeer.co.uk/the-blog/2018/6/24/london-brewers-alliance-beer-festival-five-of-the-best).
Carrying on with Bohem, it hosted an opening party at its new Tottenham brewery. As a veteran of many events (see past blogs!), I had been asked my advice, which largely centered on my pathological hatred of queues so, although I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I am not exactly an impartial witness! The full range of lagers were available, and tasting excellent, and you can read more here: (http://beerinsider.com/bohem-brewery-launches-new-brewery-site-in-tottenham/)
My Bohem connections led to an invite to the Czech Beer Day, hosted by the Ambassador in the Embassy’s gardens, at which they were pouring. An enjoyable afternoon, which could only have been improved by butlers serving Ferrero Rocher!
Bohem Brewery launch event
The Bottle Shop’s June events included Barcelona’s Nomada (Khanda Wipa IPA & La Manchurita gose), Dugges (Mango Mango Mango!) and Omnipollo Week, with the infamous slushy machine that actually suited the Mediterranean weather! They also had in Running Beer bottles, from Mills Brewing, a rural Gloucestershire brewer that specialises in mixed fermentation beers with wild yeast.
By coincidence, the day of the Heineken announcement, saw a New York special at Hoplocker. From Interboro, Yo! Play, a peach-smoothie DIPA with Burnt Mill, The Vapors a DIPA and The Bridge is Over, a IPA. Finback brought Zero Point, a coconut Gose, Replenish an IPA and Social Fabric, a DIPA.
These are rare, but have been in the UK before. However, I think Equilibrium was pouring here for the first time: There And Back Again, a wild ale, Photon, a pale ale and dHop4, a DIPA, were all excellent.
Equilibrium is one of those American brewers that have hours-long queues round the block for their releases in the US, so it was no surprise to have to wait a little here. However, hats off to Hoplocker, who had a clear and sensible maximum order policy, which they communicated everywhere in advance, and were abundantly and professionally staffed. Fantastic logistics.
Back to the reactions to the Heineken news, which were negative, but sad and disappointed rather than angry.
Extreme credit to Cloudwater (who did criticise Boak & Bailey originally, but more than made up for it), Hops Burns & Black and The Veil for being the leaders in cancelling attendance at BeaverEx or pulling the beers from their shelves.
Ticket Tannoy initially tried to refuse my refund, but once I had contacted Amex, and reminded the brokers of their legal responsibilities, they accepted the obvious point that if you sell tickets for an event and change the headline acts, then you must reimburse the customer.
Some pathetic fan-boys and –girls began whining on social media that they had paid for their ticket, and therefore brewers shouldn’t pull out. Firstly, as above, it was trivially easy to get a refund, second, blame the brewer without integrity, not those who kept it, remembering that Beavertown were in negotiations and lied about it for months when the truth would have seen the honourable brewers refusing to even get involved in the first place, and most importantly, you will have no events to go to in three years if Heineken gets its way, as there will be no independent craft brewers left to exhibit!
Whilst I was at The Bottle Shop Omnipollo event above, the news came through that Modern Times, and others had pulled out of BeaverEx. There was genuine relief, bordering on elation, as people realised that the event was over, and Beavertown were forced to send a humiliating email a few days later admitting just that.
The next causality was Sour Solstice. This was brilliant last year, and, indeed was my highlight of June 2017 (http://beerinsider.com/around-town-with-amateur-drinker-21/ ), and I got to try the excellent, but rare Tommie Sief, for the first time. Beavertown were forced to scrap tickets, and make it free entry
Beavertown’s PR Army, now ludicrously tried to claim that selling to Heineken was the same as to Private Equity. All productive organisations must ultimately be owned by private individuals, in the form of equity, or you end up with Venezuela, but other than that triviality, this is nonsense. Private Equity does not have the same over-rising incentive to crush small, independent breweries.
The Kernel TTO at GNRT
The Kernel at GNRT in North London was on Tau Day, 28/6, which meant the wonderful, annual Hawkshead/Crooked Stave Key Lime Tau was back. Very busy, as the England/Belgium Armistice game was on, but the excellent staff coped superbly.
Anspach & Hobday were the latest to announce a crowd-funding venture. I will be covering that whole topic in a separate article, which will be posted in a couple of days.
Burning Sky, thoroughly deserved winners of best drinks producer at the BBC Food Awards, and Connecticut’s Two Roads on tap together at The King’s Arms
The Fox, in Haggerston, announced it was closing for 12-18 months, as the landlord was renovating and converting the upstairs into flats. This was an early pioneer, and had a good selection with decent events, whilst still remaining a proper pub.
BritHop was a fun event, organised by Drinks Maven, at Mother Kelly’s, in which Kernel (CF90, a pale), Burning Sky (Typically English Day, a pale) and others brewed with new British hops.
Finally, as this piece was going to press, Lagunitas announced it was cutting the strength of its UK IPA from 6.2% to 5.5%. Could it be Heineken in action?
Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t. If you see this man and are tempted to buy him a drink think of the consequences.