Big beer is selling off their UK Craft Beer breweries?

Help Support The HomeBrew Forum:

Dorst

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2020
Messages
189
Reaction score
258
Location
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Lion (Kirin) has just announced that they are looking to sell two of their craft beer breweries: Four Pure and Magic Rock (link). Lion purchased these breweries just four years ago so this is quite a departure of their strategy. The news follows only a month after Carlsberg announced that they will sell or close down London Fields brewery (link).

I'm a bit removed from the UK craft market but it seems quite the opposite to what I see happening in the Netherlands in which big beer is still buying succesful craft breweries. So I wanted to get your takes on these recent events.

Is this coincidence or part of a bigger trend? Why are they selling/shutting down craft beer breweries? Does Brexit play a role in this?
 

gyurmaember

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2021
Messages
184
Reaction score
81
I read a saying, I'm not sure whether here, or in a Facebook group. "The only reason so much craft breweries exist, because PPL have no honest friends."
Have a think, and grab 10 cans of 'craft' beer, 7 of them will be crap(or if you wanna be polite, just not for your taste buds).
I gave up keep trying them a long time ago, I rather tweak my own recipes, than drain a couple of cans of £4 beers.
I'm sorry if my opinion hurt someone's feelings.
 

Sadfield

Landlord.
Joined
Oct 8, 2016
Messages
3,360
Reaction score
2,264
Location
Macclesfield
I read a saying, I'm not sure whether here, or in a Facebook group. "The only reason so much craft breweries exist, because PPL have no honest friends."
Have a think, and grab 10 cans of 'craft' beer, 7 of them will be crap(or if you wanna be polite, just not for your taste buds).
I gave up keep trying them a long time ago, I rather tweak my own recipes, than drain a couple of cans of £4 beers.
I'm sorry if my opinion hurt someone's feelings.
You could probably apply that to most products or services that aren't from big corporations, though. Get 10 different takeaways, sausages, guitars, books, albums or use ten different mechanics. But how many of them are still better than the corporate alternative? How many of that 10 would you drink if you didn't know how to brew? There's so many craft breweries because there's a market for them. And with that, there is probably a connection to the original post, perhaps the attraction of craft beer is more than the end product and the mentioned brands lose most of their market appeal from being part of a corporate portfolio.
 

marshbrewer

The p**s artist previously known as JJSH
Joined
Jan 4, 2011
Messages
4,488
Reaction score
3,501
Location
East Lindsey, Lincolnshire
I think over the previous few years, there was a bit of a craft beer 'bubble' and many large breweries paid handsomely for craft beer brewers who's USP probably was overvalued. I'm sure there will be similar shakedowns over the next few years.

I went out on a works do before Christmas, and many of the 'mainstream' beer drinkers would walk up to the bar and ask for an 'IPA'. They didn't much care if the offer was Marstons Shipyard IPA or Quentin Trust-Fund the III's Micro Brewery. That's the harsh reality of the mass market, and I have a hunch that as far as the mainstream market is concerned, this trend will pass and move onto something else (see also Gin).

That isn't to say there aren't a large amount of people who are genuinely interested in craft beers, and who's knowledge and discernment are impressive, but as a percentage of the total market, they represent a tiny minority. As has also been mentioned, they are also likely to shun craft outfits that become part of a Macro setup.
 

samale

Landlord.
Joined
Mar 6, 2019
Messages
5,642
Reaction score
6,608
I am heading to Liverpool this weekend, it will be hard to get a decent pint in the city centre. European lager's seem to be the big seller's. If I want a craft beer I will have to hunt about
 

Dorst

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2020
Messages
189
Reaction score
258
Location
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
I read a saying, I'm not sure whether here, or in a Facebook group. "The only reason so much craft breweries exist, because PPL have no honest friends."
Have a think, and grab 10 cans of 'craft' beer, 7 of them will be crap(or if you wanna be polite, just not for your taste buds).
I gave up keep trying them a long time ago, I rather tweak my own recipes, than drain a couple of cans of £4 beers.
I'm sorry if my opinion hurt someone's feelings.
I remember Magic Rock and Fourpure made good beer when I still lived in the UK. We can argue about the price perhaps but the beers from these breweries are not what I would describe as crap. I also remember seeing cans of Magic Rock in the Netherlands but this stopped. This feel counter intuitive - shouldnt big beer's distribution not be better instead of worse?
 

marshbrewer

The p**s artist previously known as JJSH
Joined
Jan 4, 2011
Messages
4,488
Reaction score
3,501
Location
East Lindsey, Lincolnshire
I am heading to Liverpool this weekend, it will be hard to get a decent pint in the city centre.
Yep, my works do was in Liverpool. I wasn't in charge of our destinations, but I was underwhelmed by the beer choice. Cask was virtually unobtainable in the venues we went into, and the 'craft' offering was usually Punk or Shipyard. I would love to go back with just the wifey so I could hunt out some proper pubs and / or bars that focused on beer rather than blearing music and fighting.

God, I'm getting old. :laugh8::laugh8:
 

Clint

Forum jester...🏅🏆
Joined
Jun 29, 2016
Messages
15,466
Reaction score
11,976
Location
North Wales
I think the application of the word "craft" is wearing out a bit. I make craft beer in my kitchen...I sometimes weigh the grain by hand and add hops by eye,if it smells OK...it is.
I don't think a 10,000 litre tank would fit on my cooker. I suspect a lot of the purchased craft set ups can't be expanded aren't pulling enough profit and we're bought to dispose of. Just like Carlsberg did with Wrexham lager on the 90's.
 

marshbrewer

The p**s artist previously known as JJSH
Joined
Jan 4, 2011
Messages
4,488
Reaction score
3,501
Location
East Lindsey, Lincolnshire
I don't think a 10,000 litre tank would fit on my cooker. I suspect a lot of the purchased craft set ups can't be expanded aren't pulling enough profit and we're bought to dispose of. Just like Carlsberg did with Wrexham lager on the 90's.
I suppose the only silver lining here is that in the 50's - 90's, many a small brewery was swallowed up by a Macro, then closed, purely so that they could get their hands on the tied estate, and this value would have determined the price they would offfer for the brewery. With the recent acquisition of craft breweries by the big boys, there aren't any particular assets to speak off, the value is all determined by the brand. So, a lot of them may well get their fingers burnt this time when they find that value disintegrate before their eyes (although, realistically, they can afford the loss).
 

Northern_Brewer

Landlord.
Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Messages
1,571
Reaction score
1,369
Is this coincidence or part of a bigger trend? Why are they selling/shutting down craft beer breweries? Does Brexit play a role in this?
It's complicated - there's always company-specific reasons as well as big picture stuff. Obviously, making it harder to export food and drink doesn't make the UK more attractive to invest.

But the UK market is a brutal place to be if you're a multinational trying to move large amounts of beer. Particularly during lockdown, there's been a big move of "craft" into supermarkets, where margins are generally razor-thin, and it's hard for relatively new entrants like Kirin to force their way past the rows of Brewdog etc.

Also routes to market in draught have been closed off with the likes of Greene King and Heineken buying two of the biggest independent pub estates in Spirit and Punch, which has effectively tied them to their new parents. (qv the comments in this thread about beer availability)

Then going to the specifics - Magic Rock made a lot of good beer, but they never really had that "core", must-stock brand for the masses in the way that Brewdog has with Punk and Beavertown has with Neck Oil and Gamma Ray. Cannonball is the closest they've got, and may have seemed to outsiders like something that could have been developed, but at 7.4% it's never going to be mainstream in the UK, that's just not our culture. The 3.9% Saucery could have been that beer but just hasn't really taken off. Also, I don't think their branding really works in smallpack on supermarket shelves.

Whereas they did rebrand FourPure and are widely regarded to have made a complete mess of it, I thought it was not terrible, but not great either. They seem to have been pushing it more as a supermarket brand - but see above, that's a brutal place to be. I've enjoyed what FourPure I've had, but again they never really seemed to establish a must-have beer, although I wasn't really paying attention.

So I think Kirin have decided that they've given it a go but the UK market is just too difficult, and they'd rather concentrate on some of the "cool" brands they've got elsewhere - it's perhaps no coincidence that this announcement comes just after they bought Bell's in the US. But I always thought it was a bit ambitious in the first place, just because they didn't really have enough footprint in the UK to really break through.

London Fields is very different - it was bankrupt, and Carlsberg bought it for pennies with no illusion about it being "cool". But it was a very cheap way to get a brand with "London" in the name, which is something that could work in less sophisticated export markets where just buying a beer with "London" in the name seems kinda cool. And Carlsberg didn't really have a "own-label" "craft" brand that could be bundled with their other brands into a package to put on a bar. But then Carlsberg UK "merged with" (took over) Marston and no longer needed to develop a second-line craft brand from scratch, as Marston already had some.

But that was fine, as the London Fields project was a cheap bet that hadn't cost them much, presumably the name will disappear and an independent will buy up the kit.
 
Joined
Apr 17, 2020
Messages
911
Reaction score
2,199
I tried a Four Pure Juice Box IPA last year,
what a let down - tasted like fizzy orange cordial.
A little digging online revealed the recipe had been changed after the brewery had been bought out, now made using hop extract.
Supermarket was still flogging it at a premium price though.
I think they rely on trendy graphic design as most punters are suckers for a funky looking can.
On that basis a process of natural selection and thinning out of the field is no bad thing.

Better to support your local brewery and buy direct.
 

Sadfield

Landlord.
Joined
Oct 8, 2016
Messages
3,360
Reaction score
2,264
Location
Macclesfield
Magic Rock made a lot of good beer, but they never really had that "core", must-stock brand for the masses in the way that Brewdog has with Punk and Beavertown has with Neck Oil and Gamma Ray.
They did though, I used to see Highwire everywhere, bottle, cask and keg. I think the issue was more about 'selling out' and losing credibility by screwing over all the independent retailers that enabled their success, by stocking their core range in Tesco cheaper than they could buy it for. Resulting in all their other beers, and brand, disappearing off shelves and pump clips in craft beer establishments. Where as Brewdog and Beavertown grew with foot in the corporate world, so the transition was smoother.
 

soupdragon

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2010
Messages
1,051
Reaction score
304
Location
Wallasey
Yep, my works do was in Liverpool. I wasn't in charge of our destinations, but I was underwhelmed by the beer choice. Cask was virtually unobtainable in the venues we went into, and the 'craft' offering was usually Punk or Shipyard. I would love to go back with just the wifey so I could hunt out some proper pubs and / or bars that focused on beer rather than blearing music and fighting.

God, I'm getting old. :laugh8::laugh8:
May I suggest a visit to the Ship and Mitre on Dale street? One of the finest cask beer establishments to be found, anywhere.

Link to website

There are several other cracking pubs but this one stands out

Cheers Tom
 

samale

Landlord.
Joined
Mar 6, 2019
Messages
5,642
Reaction score
6,608
May I suggest a visit to the Ship and Mitre on Dale street? One of the finest cask beer establishments to be found, anywhere.

Link to website

There are several other cracking pubs but this one stands out

Cheers Tom
Cheers I will definitely give it a try
 

stubrewworx

Regular.
Joined
Dec 14, 2020
Messages
212
Reaction score
129
Location
York
Yep, I 2nd Ship and Mitre. Is Dead Crafty still diagonally opposite too?
 

soupdragon

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2010
Messages
1,051
Reaction score
304
Location
Wallasey
There's always the Excelsior on the next corner up too.
As far as I know Dead Crafty is still going

Cheers Tom
 

Sadfield

Landlord.
Joined
Oct 8, 2016
Messages
3,360
Reaction score
2,264
Location
Macclesfield
A long time since I've been to Liverpool, are Club 23 and The Dispensary still going/any good?
 

Northern_Brewer

Landlord.
Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Messages
1,571
Reaction score
1,369
They did though, I used to see Highwire everywhere, bottle, cask and keg
That's because you're local-ish to it though, they never really broke out to eg London in the way that some others did. But the reality is that Highwire was good, but didn't have that "X-factor" that could overcome the commercial advantages of eg Punk or Gamma.

Just as a FWIW - the Untappd ratings of Highwire, Punk and Gamma are 3.67, 3.73, 3.77, and Highwire is the most bitter (which you can regard as a proxy for less "mass-market" appeal). So from a Big Buyer (supermarket, pub chain etc) point of view, how many slots for a 5.x% West Coast beer do you have, and what deals can you do with Kirin that will be better than Heineken or BrewDog?
 

Latest posts

Top