Most of you will have heard by now that Camden Town Brewery has become a wholly owned subsidiary of AB InBev (the worlds largest beer company).
Below is my take on what it means for those of us who love drinking great beer.
SHORT VIEW – Positive for drinkers
If you’re already a fan of Camden’s beers this is good for you. With the cash injection they can make more of their beer in the UK (they were over capacity and brewing some in Belgium before the acquisition). They will also have access to the ABInBev distribution agreements and tied estate that will open thousands of doors overnight.
Jasper is still in control and they have the same brewing team so there is no reason to expect a drop in quality or the extend of experimental brews being produced. If anything, they can be expected to increase as they gain access to equipment and expertise.
LONG VIEW – Bad for drinkers
If we fast forward 10 years the beer landscape will almost certainly be in better shape than it was 10 years ago when bland beers ruled the taps but the same problems will exist.
While I think there will be decent, flavourful beer in most bars for a market to remain dynamic it must have constant change, challenge and innovation, something that little brewers are far better at than big brewers will ever be.
The AB InBev future of craft beer:
They acquire some great brewers both sides of the Atlantic and leave them alone while they continue to deliver double or triple figure growth year on year. As this slows down we will see the old systems of control coming into play, these include huge listing fees, ownership of distribution networks and technical agreements that prevent other brands sitting on a bar.
It may sounds great that when you walk into a large venue you will see Camden Town or Elysian on the bar alongside Stella or Budweiser but it is worth remembering that in the owned craft brands becoming part of AB InBev they will be used to block out new entrants and feed back into the system that led us to the world of generic flavourless beers separated only by branding.
To summarise, it will become increasingly hard for new beers and brewers to get on the bar and as such no new Camden Town, Meantime, Elysian, 10 Barrel, Lagunitas or Goose Island breweries will be able challenge what is or isn’t good beer and that leads to a less exciting time for beer drinkers.
The Camden Town Press Release:
*Image from this release