Big beer is selling off their UK Craft Beer breweries?

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darlacat

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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.

Allied to this, it appears to a brutal market beyond the big supermarkets. I read an interesting exchange the other day on Twitter amongst some bottle shop owners/relatively prominent figures in British craft beer retail, in which they were complaining about how difficult it is to shift anything from new breweries and beyond hazy IPAs and flavoured sours. The reason being that untappd is driving tastes - i.e. if it's not a big scorer on untappd, no-one is buying it, even if it's an extremely high quality product that a retailer with years of experience can vouch for. Plus the ongoing obsession for hazy fruit juice. I've seen a contraction of choice in craft beer bottle shops - e.g. where a brewery like Deya or Pollys once had a shelf each, they now might have an entire fridge each and there is less diversity of brewery and beer as a result. Certain breweries are monopolising the shelves in independent shops and I expect this to be a tough time for new breweries or those without a current foothold in untappd or off licence shelves.

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.

Draught beer is a grim proposition in certain parts of the country at the moment. Here in Cardiff the Heineken/Marstons takeover of Brains' pub estate has destroyed what was the best traditional pub in Cardiff, and the best independent bar has been effectively thrown out by its landlord as Byron Burger (if I'm correctly informed) offered 50% increase on the rent to take over the site. City centre will be pretty much left with Brewdog and Tiny Rebel as the only 'craft' choices, which is a miserable state of affairs. Cask beer is pretty much dead in Cardiff.
 
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they were complaining about how difficult it is to shift anything from new breweries and beyond hazy IPAs and flavoured sours. The reason being that untappd is driving tastes - i.e. if it's not a big scorer on untappd, no-one is buying it, even if it's an extremely high quality product that a retailer with years of experience can vouch for. Plus the ongoing obsession for hazy fruit juice. I've seen a contraction of choice in craft beer bottle shops - e.g. where a brewery like Deya or Pollys once had a shelf each, they now might have an entire fridge each and there is less diversity of brewery and beer as a result. Certain breweries are monopolising the shelves in independent shops and I expect this to be a tough time for new breweries or those without a current foothold in untappd or off licence shelves.

Whilst Untappd is certainly a factor for some - and a factor that certain retailers have encouraged - it's more than that. Hazies and sours are just what's fashionable, so of course that's what sells. You also have the factor that bottle shops are being squeezed by supermarkets - you can get a WCIPA with Cloudwater's name on it (albeit made at Brewdog) in Tesco now, you can get Punk for a pound a can, so in order to justify the prices that they have to charge, they're having to pitch the fact that they are offering "the best". And Untappd is a convenient short-hand for the conventional practices of building a reputation, when you're looking at a market where most beers are only available for a few months before moving on to the Next Big Thing.

There's also an element of a shakeout after a period of great disruption - there may be lots of breweries, but how many of them are offering the same old Citra/Mosaic hazy made with 1318? That's not diversity. Arguably you get more diversity by having a range of different beers from fewer breweries. Also there's just the commercial imperatives - you get beers more cheaply in one bigger delivery from one brewery than you do from buying bits and pieces from 10 breweries. And if that's from a "name" brewery that people want to buy, that's better than getting stuck with a load of beer that nobody wants to try.

But there's still scope for the really good breweries to make a breakthrough - Polly's could be considered an example.
 

Sadfield

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Plus the ongoing obsession for hazy fruit juice. I've seen a contraction of choice in craft beer bottle shops
You can add pastry stouts to that. My god its tedious right now. All pales with the same hops, but listed in a different order. Worst still, is when you do find a west coast ipa, its usually been softened and hazed up. My bad joke is that global warming has forced them all hundreds of miles inland. I tend to only buy from 5-6 trusted breweries these days.
 

darlacat

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There's also an element of a shakeout after a period of great disruption - there may be lots of breweries, but how many of them are offering the same old Citra/Mosaic hazy made with 1318? That's not diversity. Arguably you get more diversity by having a range of different beers from fewer breweries. Also there's just the commercial imperatives - you get beers more cheaply in one bigger delivery from one brewery than you do from buying bits and pieces from 10 breweries. And if that's from a "name" brewery that people want to buy, that's better than getting stuck with a load of beer that nobody wants to try.

Yes, 100% - so many variations on the 1318 citra/mosaic hazy that there is no discernible difference between any of them, apart from the ones that are poorly made! The Untappd thing does promote a ridiculous chase for this stuff though, with single breweries producing endless minute varations on exactly the same beer. The can artwork and silly name is often as/more important than the beer in creating this sense of new, in my eyes. Completely understand the commercial imperative for retailers here though, and don't blame them for simply stocking what sells!

But there's still scope for the really good breweries to make a breakthrough - Polly's could be considered an example.

Yes, Polly's are really good at what they do, and they have varied their production beyond hazies recently. The black IPA they made with sabro was very good.

I tend to only buy from 5-6 trusted breweries these days.

Yes, same here. Burning Sky and St Mars of the Desert are the only breweries I really keep an eye on at present. And any good Bavarian and Belgian stuff I come across.
 

Paul7189

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The scaling up also often doesn’t work. Brewdog especially have gone very down hill since and I avoid it now, although I use their recipes quite a bit. Elvis juice tastes so crap now so as I miss the original so I’m going to have to brew it myself soon.
I have just seen they have returned to 6.5% on it so maybe they have gone back to the old formula.
 

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Allied to this, it appears to a brutal market beyond the big supermarkets. I read an interesting exchange the other day on Twitter amongst some bottle shop owners/relatively prominent figures in British craft beer retail, in which they were complaining about how difficult it is to shift anything from new breweries and beyond hazy IPAs and flavoured sours. The reason being that untappd is driving tastes - i.e. if it's not a big scorer on untappd, no-one is buying it, even if it's an extremely high quality product that a retailer with years of experience can vouch for. Plus the ongoing obsession for hazy fruit juice. I've seen a contraction of choice in craft beer bottle shops - e.g. where a brewery like Deya or Pollys once had a shelf each, they now might have an entire fridge each and there is less diversity of brewery and beer as a result. Certain breweries are monopolising the shelves in independent shops and I expect this to be a tough time for new breweries or those without a current foothold in untappd or off licence shelves.



Draught beer is a grim proposition in certain parts of the country at the moment. Here in Cardiff the Heineken/Marstons takeover of Brains' pub estate has destroyed what was the best traditional pub in Cardiff, and the best independent bar has been effectively thrown out by its landlord as Byron Burger (if I'm correctly informed) offered 50% increase on the rent to take over the site. City centre will be pretty much left with Brewdog and Tiny Rebel as the only 'craft' choices, which is a miserable state of affairs. Cask beer is pretty much dead in Cardiff.
There's always the head of steam and zero degrees we're staying in 'diff overnight on the 19th to visit the 2 you've mentioned and the two i've mentioned. However bad cardiff may be, swansea is worse. brewdog and beer riff the only ones in the city centre worth frequenting. I have a free nights stay courtesy of points from my credit card and a brewdog voucher from leaving my last job (voucher isn't valid in brewdog swansea as it's a franchised bar.) Brewdog cardiff have a better range of beers and whilst their quality has dropped from in the past there are still some gems hidden amonsgt the dross.
 

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