Consciously or otherwise, people take into account all sorts of factors when choosing which beer brands to buy – and when it comes to indie/local status, there’s plenty of ground between ‘I don’t care’ and ‘I would die before buying from a multinational’.
In the pub on Friday night, we were amused to hear two lads discussing Beavertown at the bar.
“Ah, they’ve got Neck Oil!”
“Tell you what, you see that everywhere these days.”
“They’ve done really well for a small independent brewery, haven’t they?”
A large chunk of Beavertown is, of course, owned by Heineken, which is why it can afford to have ads on the side of every bus in Britain and now turns up in all sorts of unlikely places.
Do we think these lads would have ordered something else if they’d known about Beavertown’s ownership? Probably not.
Do we think they’d have been furious or felt betrayed? Again, probably not. But we bet they’d have looked a bit crestfallen and said, “Oh.”
We say that because we’ve had this conversation with friends and colleagues, with regard to both Beavertown and Camden. These are people who like beer and are conscious of their choices but not, it’s fair to say, obsessed with it.
To generalise about their response, we’d say (a) mildly disappointed and (b) a bit embarrassed not to have known already – a sense of having been tricked by sneaky marketing.
Without conducting a full-on survey (tempting) we can’t say with any certainty how people weight different factors when buying beer. We reckon, though, that for most people, it’s something like this:
If you break down ‘liking the brand’ you might find all sorts of other stuff going on, including a preference for independent and/or local.
When you learn that a beer isn’t independent/local, it might stop you buying it – but you’ll probably still want the best IPA or lager on offer in the pub you’re at.
That’s certainly how it goes for us.
But if there’s a choice of another beer that’s also in the right style, and tastes decent, but is also indie/local, you might choose that instead. In fact, you might even be willing to compromise a bit on the quality. It’s a matter of preference.
As we’ve said before, if multinational brewers didn’t think independent/local appealed to consumers, they wouldn’t keep buying independent/local breweries and would proudly declare their ownership on the packaging.