QUICK ONE: The Problem is Hypocrisy

Illustration: a pint of beer in chalk on a blackboard.

Selling your brewery for fabulous amounts of money to a big multinational isn’t a problem – it’s doing so when you’ve made capital from being opposed to just that kind of thing.

If you had made a point of say­ing along the way, ‘We would nev­er rule out sell­ing to some­one like AB-InBev – we have no beef with Big Beer,’ then it’s unlike­ly any­one would get annoyed when you did so.

So why did­n’t you do that?

It must have been at least part­ly because you believed you’d gain less pub­lic­i­ty and adu­la­tion, and sell less beer.

You might have been right to think that, but we sus­pect not: the oth­er way, you’d gain marks for hon­esty, and pick up the kind of fans for whom beer isn’t so pun­gent with pol­i­tics.

Either way, if you insist inde­pen­dence is impor­tant when it ben­e­fits you but then decide peo­ple who care about it are sil­ly and imma­ture when your sit­u­a­tion changes, expect them to be annoyed.

22 thoughts on “QUICK ONE: The Problem is Hypocrisy”

  1. Has any­one ever been open to the big boys from the out­set? I’d always assumed those that are keep it qui­et rather than dis­cuss it…

  2. *cough*

    The brew­ery start­ed because we couldn’t find a lager we loved in Lon­don. Drinkers are get­ting smarter and they can tell the dif­fer­ence between a beer made by a mul­ti-nation­al brew­ery and a small­er one. With lager we want­ed to brew a high-qual­i­ty beer, inspired by ones we’ve drunk in Ger­many, and show that lager isn’t a taste­less, fizzy beer.”

  3. Fair point, Richard, but sure­ly it’s more about those who claim that they nev­er would do such a thing, and are opposed to every­thing the big boys stand for, before sell­ing out – there are plen­ty of craft brew­ers who don’t say any­thing on the sub­ject, so can’t be called out as hyp­ocrites.

    I do find it rather dis­ap­point­ing that an organ­i­sa­tion like InBev, with all their brew­ing tal­ent (yes, they have some!), capac­i­ty and mar­ket­ing abil­i­ty aren’t able to devel­op their own craft brew­ery (in beer rather than brew­ery terms), but have to rely on acqui­si­tions. If they can’t devel­op one with­in their cul­ture, what chance do they have of main­tain­ing one that they take over?

    1. Nick – in the US there’s Shock­top, which is now the “acces­si­ble craft” brand with­in InBev’s High End group.

        1. I did­n’t say it was any good, mere­ly point­ed out that they *had* devel­oped their own craft brand. And it does seem to go down OK with par­tic­u­lar demo­graph­ics – the usu­al ones who want to be a bit dif­fer­ent, but not too dif­fer­ent, and so on.

  4. Any­one who has ever owned and run a busi­ness will know you’ll say and do any­thing to make that busi­ness grow and pro­vide secu­ri­ty for your­self and your staff.
    If you can sell it to some­body and make a good prof­it that’s an added bonus.
    Good luck to ’em.
    It’s beer for good­ness sake not a cru­sade to be bezzies with a craft brew­er.
    Do peo­ple real­ly drink beer because they think the brew­ery is mak­ing a fine stand against the big boys or do they drink beer because they like the taste of it ?

    1. Actu­al­ly I’d say a big part of the schtick of the “craft beer move­ment” has always been that they are “stick­ing it to The Man” – it has­n’t pure­ly been about the taste of the beer.

      Like­wise CAMRA has always looked favourably on new brew­ery star­tups even if their actu­al beer left much to be desired.

      But any brew­ery that breaks the bounds of cot­tage indus­try scale will even­tu­al­ly either end up being acquired by one of the big boys, or become some­what “cor­po­rate” itself – it’s a sim­ple fact of life.

      1. Actu­al­ly I’d say a big part of the schtick of the “craft beer move­ment” has always been that they are “stick­ing it to The Man””

        As far as the UK scene goes, I think this is large­ly a myth. Brew­dog obvi­ous­ly bang on about it to the n‑th degree, but oth­er­wise you’re more like­ly to hear peo­ple waf­fling about qual­i­ty, inno­va­tion, diver­si­ty than rail­ing against “indus­tri­al beer” or “multi­na­tion­als” or what­ev­er.

        The US is obvi­ous­ly dif­fer­ent, which is prob­a­bly why the reac­tion to brew­eries there sell­ing out tends to be a bit more extreme.

        1. It was cer­tain­ly the case with the ear­li­er Ger­man craft brew­ers – a big part of why so much of their beer was cloudy/hazy was because it’s a handy sig­ni­fi­er that it’s not bright indus­tri­al beer, not the gleam­ing yel­low inden­tik­it stuff adver­tised on TV.

          Of course it did­n’t take very long for the indus­tri­als to catch up, with their Naturtrübs and Keller­biers and what-not.

      2. Craft beer move­ment” is an uneasy group­ing of peo­ple who are inter­est­ed in beer for a vari­ety of rea­sons.

        Whilst I would argue that by far the major­i­ty of peo­ple are sim­ply inter­est­ed in hav­ing bet­ter access to a greater vari­ety and qual­i­ty of beer, there are the “hip­ster” minor­i­ty for whom craft beer is an anti-cor­po­rate activist move­ment – how­ev­er they often shout loud­est, giv­ing the impres­sion that they make up a big­ger pro­por­tion than they actu­al­ly do.

    2. Do peo­ple real­ly drink beer because they think the brew­ery is mak­ing a fine stand against the big boys or do they drink beer because they like the taste of it ?

      I think we can prob­a­bly say that “hip­sters” do the for­mer, where­as every­one else does the lat­ter.

  5. But… why do we need to rely on the inter­me­di­ary of big beer? Isn’t the core hypocrisy the pledges to be small, humane and pas­sion dri­ven who then become large, cor­po­rate and markup dri­ven whether they sell or not? From the beer buy­er and brew­ery work­ers point of view, does the boo­gie man actu­al­ly look like ABIn­Bev or the cream tak­ing, jet set­ting, wide­ly export­ing own­er who insists on skip­ping the health and safe­ty because… craft?

  6. Any­one who has ever owned and run a busi­ness will know you’ll say and do any­thing to make that busi­ness grow and pro­vide secu­ri­ty for your­self and your staff.”

    Real­ly? Start­ing a busi­ness turns every­one into sociopaths? Good argu­ment against cap­i­tal­ism. Alhough, I’d sug­gest, not true. It is pos­si­ble to run a busi­ness, even a suc­cess­ful one, with­out being a com­plete barstew­ard.

    (Could we call this egre­gious craft sell-out behav­iour “hopocrisy”? And as The Dis­pos­able Heroes Of Hip-Hop put it, “Hypocrisy Is The Great­est Lux­u­ry”.)

    1. Secu­ri­ty for your­self and your staff is the def­i­n­i­tion of sociopa­thy? Wow.

      1. ” Sociopaths are usu­al­ly defined as peo­ple who dis­play anti­so­cial behav­ior which is main­ly char­ac­terised by lack of empa­thy towards oth­ers, cou­pled with dis­plays of abnor­mal moral con­duct and an inabil­i­ty to con­form with the norms of soci­ety. ”

        And here’s me think­ing they were just craft brew­ers try­ing to make a few bob.
        Sociopa­thy is cer­tain­ly not a word I’d use to describe peo­ple who gam­ble often large amounts of their own mon­ey set­ting up a busi­ness from scratch,work hor­ren­dous­ly long hours,worry con­stant­ly about pay­ing staff and cred­i­tors etc etc.
        They might start out with the inten­tion of not mar­ket­ing them­selves like a mul­ti-nation­al but you try telling your bank man­ag­er or the per­son appear­ing at your door with a large cheque that,no thanks if it’s alright with you, I pre­fer to be broke but true to my moral com­pass.
        As I say,come back to me when you’ve actu­al­ly done the busi­ness from the oth­er side of the bar.

  7. I have a fair­ly good idea of sev­er­al names that fit the pro­file of large con­cerns that have built their busi­ness­es with the inten­tion of even­tu­al takeover. Thats the sad thing about the UK, such a large churn of fam­i­ly firms that sell out to multi­na­tion­als, doesn’t hap­pen on such a large scale in Ger­many where the word pri­vat­brau­rei is a term of pride.
    Carls­berg is the lat­est to announce inten­tion to get into the ‘craft­beer’ mar­ket, well for me, that’s a sign that the mar­ket is peaked.
    It’s quite per­verse real­ly, they see com­mer­cial oppor­tu­ni­ty now, but did­n’t see it when they were destroy­ing fan­tas­tic beers some years ago.
    Carls­berg has effec­tive­ly destroyed Tet­ley, and Coors bought Doom Bar after their pre­de­ces­sors killed off Bass and Wor­thing­ton.

  8. We just watched anoth­er excel­lent brew­er, Wicked Weed, here in the states get swept up by AB-InBev and it’s sparked anoth­er out­pour­ing of resent­ment among craft beer fans across the coun­try. There have been the req­ui­site beer snob “revolts” where peo­ple show up at the brew­ery, buy beer and then dump it out (tru­ly idi­ot­ic) as well as more rea­soned dis­cus­sions of what it all means. The bot­tom line to me is that this is a con­scious effort by AB-InBev and their ilk to reclaim mar­ket share, push­ing craft beer down and pulling their car­bon­at­ed swill up. Every craft brew­er is obvi­ous­ly free to do what­ev­er they want for what­ev­er rea­son they want (hyp­o­crit­i­cal­ly or oth­er­wise) but their actions will have reper­cus­sions. The Big “Beer” monop­oly will pool resources for them­selves (and their acqui­si­tions), choke dis­tri­b­u­tion and do every­thing they can to force craft brew­ers to slash prices and reduce the qual­i­ty of their beer while doing noth­ing to improve their own. Then all beer will be the same again. A night­mare to con­sid­er.

    1. Sure­ly if the craft move­ment shows any­thing, it shows the same as CAMRA – that qual­i­ty does sell, at least to a size­able part of the mar­ket. You only have to look at Bel­gium to see that Big Beer buy­ing up “craft” sup­pli­ers does not ulti­mate­ly lead to a lack of choice; if any­thing, the oppo­site. Yes, it’s sad when a much-loved beer gets dumb­ed down, but not quite the end of the world.

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