Getting in Shape for Takeover

Reading tea leaves in a cup.

Without insider intelligence it’s impossible to say with any certainty whether a brewery is about to be taken over by a larger national or multi-national but we reckon there are a few things to look out for.

First comes a shift from purism to prag­ma­tism. Small­ness, inde­pen­dence and prove­nance, once both sacred val­ues and sell­ing points, get dropped.

There might be sur­pris­ing part­ner­ships with ‘evil’ com­pa­nies; there may be con­tracts to sup­ply super­mar­kets; or plans to have beer pro­duced under con­tract, with more or less trans­paren­cy.

This kind of thing usu­al­ly comes with a rush of blurb explain­ing how, actu­al­ly, this way is even crafter because it widens access to the prod­uct, chal­lenges the sta­tus quo, and so on, and so forth. But what it also hap­pens to do is send a sig­nal like ani­mal hor­mones in mat­ing sea­son: we’ve grown up now; we under­stand how it works in the real world; we’re peo­ple you can do busi­ness with.

The tying off of loose ends is anoth­er thing to watch out for, e.g. the sud­den set­tling of legal dis­putes, which few poten­tial buy­ers will want to acquire as part of any bun­dle. Cam­den set­tled their dis­pute with Red­well over the trade­mark for Hells, for exam­ple, at around the time of its takeover by AB-InBev. (We under­stand that report­ing of this news came much lat­er than the set­tle­ment itself, though it’s pos­si­ble we’ve got the wrong end of the stick.)

Along the same lines, one might read some­thing into the wind­ing up of fun but mar­gin­al parts of the busi­ness.

The emer­gence of a dom­i­nant beer in the port­fo­lio might be the biggest red flag of all. (Or green, depend­ing on your point of view.) Big multi­na­tion­al firms are drawn to lagers, pale ales, wheat beers and increas­ing­ly, we’ve observed, ses­sion IPAs. These are prod­ucts with main­stream appeal, that peo­ple can and will drink for an entire ses­sion or buy by the six-pack, and which fill a gap in their port­fo­lios of Craft Brands. If they’re already in super­mar­kets and chain pubs (see above) all the bet­ter.

All of this is a round­about way of say­ing that, think­ing back on the tra­jec­to­ries of Mean­time, Sharp’s, Cam­den and oth­ers, we’d put mon­ey on Beaver­town being bought up before too long.

Of course Beaver­town says this:

Twitter conversation: a takeover is not going to happen, says Beavertown.

But that does­n’t change our gut instincts. After all, the one indi­ca­tor of an impend­ing takeover you can guar­an­tee you’ll nev­er get is any explic­it announce­ment of intent before a deal has been finalised.

16 thoughts on “Getting in Shape for Takeover”

  1. You nev­er know a takeover is offi­cial until the self styled God­fa­ther of craft James Watt declares on Twit­ter that Brew­dog will no longer be stock­ing that brew­ery’s beers.

    1. How many of those box­es do Brew­dog tick? They must have had a few offers for the busi­ness by now.

      1. And accept­ed the ones from The Grif­fin Group and TSG Con­sumer Part­ners. Brew­Dog’s founders now own a minor­i­ty of the com­pa­ny (47%) between them.

        1. Yeah but that’s not sell­ing out because James says so. He’s all punk and stuff.

  2. Why would Mr. Beaver sell up? I doubt he is short of a few bob. He used to be in a band, & own­ing a brew­ery has so many par­al­lels with being in a band, but the best bit is you get payed & stay in hotels at fests instead of sleep­ing on pro­mot­ers floors. Liv­ing the dream he is. Why sell out ??

  3. Blimey, haven’t you delet­ed this yet? You’ve upset the Beaverati. 😉

    I think your instincts are spot on; seems to me thay every move they have made for the last cou­ple of years is entire­ly con­sis­tent with that read­ing.

  4. I thought the lit­mus test was: attend Craft Beer Ris­ing with brand­ing that’s bet­ter than your beer.

  5. Beaver­town already has a deal with Spendrups in Swe­den to import Beaver­town beer there. Spendrups is a brew­er with a long his­to­ry of brew­ing bland lager and now have a cou­ple of their own “crafty” brands that are gen­er­al­ly bland ales.

  6. When a brew­ery appears to care more about brand pop­u­lar­i­ty and avail­abil­i­ty over qual­i­ty, while sell­ing a large core line of ‘ses­sion­able’ beers AND when they’re pret­ty much at capac­i­ty in their cur­rent loca­tion, then yes, this seems to make the prospect more like­ly.

    A ever increas­ing num­ber of brew­eries tick these box­es… includ­ing, Beaver­town. How­ev­er, while incred­i­bly pop­u­lar with their fans, I’m not sure that the brand­ing mars with nation­al chains as well as oth­ers; so I can­not real­ly see this one hap­pen­ing..

    Ulti­mate­ly it’ll boil down to who owns the busi­ness & the price offered, assum­ing that avail­able mar­ket research is accu­rate and reli­able…

  7. Pingback: Pub world buzzes with stories that a multinational fancies a taste of a Tottenham brewery – LOVING DALSTON

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