Crossover Event: Beavertown & Heineken

Heineken sign

Beavertown has sold a substantial stake to Heineken  — they’re not specifying how much but 49 per cent seems a reasonable assumption — and our Twitter mentions have gone a bit mad.

That’s because a few weeks ago, you might recall, we wrote a piece reflecting on signs one might look out for to indicate that a brewery is readying itself for sale, pointing to Beavertown as an example of a firm that seemed to be glowing hot.

Now, let’s be clear: our post was actually pretty tentative — might this, possibly that — and, though we named AB-InBev as a possible suitor in the quick Tweet we fired off before the post, we didn’t specify any names in the post proper because we didn’t have a clue.

Even if we’d guessed Heineken would have been low down the list given its fairly recent acquisition of another London brewery, Brixton.

(Although within minutes of our posting multiple people had messaged us to say, “It’s Heineken”, and proper journalists soon ferreted out the story.)

So, yes, we’re feeling pleased that our logic was tested and seems to have held up but, no, we don’t feel like soothsayers or a pair of Mystic Megs. What we came up with was half educated guess, half luck.

In the PR around today’s news Beavertown has addressed a few important points head on, admitting to having swerved telling the truth because (as we acknowledged in our post) businesses don’t generally talk about deals while they’re being negotiated and, indeed, are usually legally prohibited from doing so:

It’s been an uncomfortable few weeks as speculative rumours have been flying about.  The reality is that sometimes in business you can’t share everything and I’m a true believer in not talking about anything unless it is a done deal, and up until this very day there was no deal.

It’s at this point, though, that we’ll refer to an even older post of ours, from May last year: breweries could avoid a lot of the criticism and high emotion that hits on takeover day, and lingers for months and even years after, if they made a point of saying from much earlier on in the cycle something like, “We sometimes talk to potential investors and would never rule out selling a stake in the company, just so you know.”

People will probably understand if you have to keep the specifics of particular deals quiet, as long as the very idea that you might be talking to whichever global giant isn’t a nasty surprise.

Whatever the logistics behind the decision, however good the news for the company, regardless of whether the beer stays the same, there will always be people who feel stung when a company which was selling a set of values as much as pale ale decides that one of those values doesn’t matter any more.

8 thoughts on “Crossover Event: Beavertown & Heineken”

  1. I could not understand the fuss about your original post. There are whole pages of national newspapers and reams of websites speculating wildly about which companies are good prospects and which might be ripe for takeovers. You may have touched a nerve or two if Beavertown are not the only leading light in British brewing looking for that kind of investment

  2. Beavertown carried on as though they were already macro-owned anyway! Their mass-produced, unimaginative range of beers will fit perfectly into the crappy Heineken portfolio.

    File them along with Camden, Brixton, Lagunitas and Goose Island, as brands to be actively avoided. Good luck selling any tickets for the Extravaganza this year (that’s if there are any breweries prepared to pour there anyway).

    No great loss anyway….

  3. Boils down to the huge cost of expansion; but, do they really need a 450,000 litres brewery to ‘reach every corner of the country’, especially when some corners have vocally cut all ties…

    And if they do, where the hell is craft supermarket beer from smaller breweries (such as vocation, fourpure, london beer factory, thornbridge, etc.) actually being brewed???

  4. Have to say that (a) that’s no surprise at all, the original analysis made perfect sense; (b) clearly Beavertown were not at liberty to discuss the issue whilst negotiations were ongoing; (c) the original backlash against you was completely ridiculous on every level; and (d) I’m not actually sure I care all that much anyway. My identity is not defined by Craft Beer (with capitals!); I enjoy many of the beers, but it’s not a way of life or a quasi-religious movement for me. I just enjoy the beers. Now in the past, brewery takeovers were A Very Bad Thing, because they were mostly done for the associated tied estate, and the new owners didn’t give two hoots for the beers – breweries would be quickly closed, and maybe one or two of the beers would live on in name only. But these craft brewers don’t own pubs, and they’re being bought for their beers and their image, so there’s no sense in damaging either. So why should I be concerned? Surely it just encourages more brewers, in the hope that they too might make a killing one day?

  5. I can see this holding back craft sector growth . Pubs with just one craft keg line that happens to be gamma ray already exist. I’d expect head of steam (growing “craft ” chain ,owned by Camerons who are 25 % Heineken owned ) will now have a couple of fixed beavertown lines . May get beavertown into pubs where I’d otherwise had nothing I’d be happy drinking.

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