What Happened to the United Craft Brewers?

United Craft Brewers logo.

United Craft Brewers (UCB) launched in the UK last year and seemed to be a pretty big deal, but has since fizzled out. How come?

Hav­ing writ­ten about it at some length last sum­mer, and being nosy, we approached one of the founder mem­bers, Richard Bur­house of Mag­ic Rock.

Our impres­sion from var­i­ous inter­ac­tions over the years – we’ve nev­er met him – is that he’s a rel­a­tive­ly straight­for­ward per­son not prone to spin and we thought we might rely on him to give us a fair­ly direct answer.

Here’s what we got from a short phone call.

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So, what hap­pened?

Like I said when we agreed to speak, there’s not a lot to say. I’m con­scious of… I don’t want to crit­i­cise any indi­vid­u­als.

The main issue was not being able to come to a def­i­n­i­tion. I thought we were mak­ing progress but it sort of slipped away. It kept falling down on tech­ni­cal­i­ties, like, what hap­pens if you’ve out­side influ­ences and investors. What per­cent­age? Etcetera. It was all very neb­u­lous, hard to pin down.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “What Hap­pened to the Unit­ed Craft Brew­ers?”

A Disruptive Influence?

One of the most critical and questioning voices in the world of British beer is not a writer but a brewer: Jon Kyme of Stringers.

When he blogs, it is usu­al­ly because some­one has pro­voked him by, for exam­ple, mak­ing a claim in mar­ket­ing mate­r­i­al that does­n’t stand up to scruti­ny, and he often adopts indi­rect­ly the per­sona of ‘The Pro­fes­sor’ to deliv­er lec­tures laced with eco­nom­ics, sci­ence and phi­los­o­phy.

On Twit­ter, he often posts acidic sub-Tweets pick­ing up on fac­tu­al errors, grandiose claims, or even just typos. In com­ments on var­i­ous blogs, he is sim­i­lar­ly sharp, in both sens­es of the word.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “A Dis­rup­tive Influ­ence?”

Why Camden deserve a medal

Cam­den Town Brew­ery launched a nitro-keg stout late last year. Although cask-con­di­tioned stout is a great thing, this is a clever move in com­mer­cial terms as well as strik­ing a much more effec­tive blow against the ubiq­ui­ty of Guin­ness in London’s pubs than cask stout could ever real­is­ti­cal­ly hope to achieve.

First, in com­mer­cial terms, like many of Camden’s beers, it sits only just over the con­cep­tu­al line from the usu­al sus­pects. It looks pret­ty much like Guin­ness; it feels a bit like Guin­ness in the mouth; and, although con­sid­er­ably more flavour­ful than recent pints of Guin­ness we’ve had, isn’t “impe­ri­alised”, flavoured with chocolate/espresso/whisky/etc., or full of flow­ery US hops. Many peo­ple who nor­mal­ly drink Guin­ness (not beer geeks) will order this and go on to drink more than one pint, prob­a­bly with­out grum­bling. It’ll sell.

And, sec­ond­ly, there’s why they deserve a medal: this beer might start to wean peo­ple off their auto­mat­ic, go-to brands. It starts to send the mes­sage that there are stouts oth­er than Guin­ness and that it is pos­si­ble to stray from your usu­al brand with­out being struck down by light­ning.

If we want to see choice in pubs, we just can’t have gigan­tic, mono­lith­ic brands steal­ing all the oxy­gen in a giv­en space, as Guin­ness cur­rent­ly does, and Cam­den are doing some­thing about it.

Fuller’s cask-con­di­tioned Black Cab Stout is a mar­vel­lous devel­op­ment, too, but, we sus­pect, a step too far for many Guin­ness drinkers, lack­ing the famil­iar creamy head. And let’s not for­get that Sam Smith’s nitro-keg stout has been around for years…