Brewery Buyouts

2017 has shown that 'Big Beer' would like nothing more than to get its corporate hands on an ever growing piece of the fermented pie that is craft beer. What with Heineken purchasing the rest of Lagunitus, Wicked Weed ceding control to ABinbev, and even brewers like Founders being part owned by Inbev also it's becoming harder to tell what is and what isn't independent craft beer and that’s exactly what the global corps want.

Here in the UK we have also had a couple of big well known takeovers, Meantime and Camden, these two big London brewers sold for vast amounts, and their beer has subsequently been widely noted to have declined in quality. I did note whilst in a national pub chain that happens to do a good cheap breakfast that the Meantime bottles of old, thin and slender working down to a wide stout base have changed to a standard bottle, undoubtedly a cost cutting measure. All of a brands charm disappears in the blink of an eye when corporate attitudes of cost cutting over quality and individuality take over.

So it doesn't make any sense, right? The obvious business plan for such a buyout would go something like this:

1. Big brewery purchases smaller craft producer

2. Brewery allowed to continue brewing high quality beer whilst taking advantage of corporate giant's marketing and distribution network

3. Quality does not decline, sales increase, brand gets better recognition.

That’s probably how its is sold to the independents who sell up or sell out, but of course it can't work like that. Before long the accountants start brewing and it all goes to pot. The charm and quality of independent breweries is one of the reason that we love beer.

Quality is one thing but knowing that the beer you're drinking was made by people who care about beer as much as they do their bank balance is a brilliant feeling. Drinking independently produced beer in an independently owned bar, there's nothing better than that.

So hopefully we’ll see you soon.

John R

Day Manager

Believe the hype?

There seems to be an awful lot of hype around the general 'Hype Machine' of Craft Beer at the moment. Is it a cynical marketing strategy or an irresponsible encouragement of drinking strong beer? Or is it simply the natural cause and effect of the “Gotta catch 'em all” Pokemon generation?

To me, the craft beer movement is an evolution of small cultural revolutions starting with the rise of the Teenager in the 1950's, moving on to mods, hippies, punks, new romantics etc. But whereas previously the only option was to pick up a guitar and make some noise, this time round rather than rattling the cage from the outside we've cut straight through the middle.

Not content to stand shouting from the side of the arena this batch of revolutionaries unhappy with modern business and capitalism have decided to create a new form of business which gives the consumer the alternative the bands of the past were pining for. A model in which collaboration and the sharing of ideas is encouraged and secrecy and cost-cutting is scorned. A business model where the customer comes first and communication between customer and producer is paramount. When you look at it like that, is the hype any more unhealthy than that for Oasis' Be Here Now, or at least beer has a best before date.

#BrewsListening

This week's playlist is designed to match Track Brew Co's Zoji. A 5.8% Black IPA. There is something about Black IPA's that screams Post Punk at me. The wall of noise rhythm section is echoed by the malt and the hops jump on and off the palate like the slightly unhinged lead guitars of the time.

So sit back in your favourite chair, pour yourself a bottle of Zoji and pop those headphones on.

Use the hashtag #BrewsListening to give us your feedback and recommendations.

Listen to Brews Listening Vol. 2 - Track Brew Co. - Zoji on Apple Music or Spotify.

Brew's listening?

A few weeks ago I went to a new kind of beer tasting event. 12 Noon, Friday Morning in the misty hills of Brecon Beacons Mr @PeteBrownBeer took me on a journey through the perceptions of taste with a Beer and Music Pairing event at Green Man festival matching the bands and the beers of Green Man, a selection of 99 local Cask conditioned and Kegged beers. All music festivals need a bar like this so those of you who know me will not be surprised to find out that beer and music are my two favourite things, and have listened to me going on about the parallels between Craft Beer and Pop bands for ages (Brew Dog and Blink 182 anyone?)

Anyway, I'm sort of doing my own spin on it now so every brewsletter I'll be selecting my Beer of the Fortnight and posting an Apple Music link to a 20 minute playlist designed specifically to complement said beer. Give it a go, let me know what you think. Why not try it with a beer style that's maybe not for you, don't like wheat beer, then try listening to Neil Young's Heart of Gold while supping a hoppy American Wheat, it might ease you in to a new style.

So starting off our new 'Brew's Listening' Beer & Music matching we've got Reuben's Gose from Seattle's fantastic Reuben's Brews and a playlist designed to bring out all of those lovely layered notes of lemon, coriander, salt and of course sourness. Let us know how you get on or why not post us a link to your own pairings using the hashtag #brewslistening

Listen to Brew's Listening Vol.1 ­Reuben's Gose on Apple Music (you'll need Apple Music membership to listen).

'Crask' and the Great Keg Debate

Well well well we seem to getting a new word mentioned in the beer world recently. 'Crask' for all you new to the word its craft beer served in a Cask (think of Wierd Beard and Wild Beer on cask and you'll catch our drift). Os likes the word but I loath it as good beer is good beer what ever the dispense method is but Os is an ex marketer so loves his buzz words!

So a 1⁄2 a pint from Siren served on hand­pull would be a “Crask” beer. There you have it (or not in my case).
 
CAMRA & Kegs
Craft beer fans, and the craft beer industry in general, have spent the last few years arguing with CAMRA that regardless of its serving method good beer is good beer, so beer should be served by whichever method the brewer believes its best for their product be that cask or keg. Now we're getting to get to a point where that is now generally accepted by CAMRA who have finally relented that Key­Keg conditioned beer is Real Beer so its good to see “Key Keg” bars now at CAMRA festivals this year.

It does frustrate that CAMRA find it still hard to acknowledge the wonderful new craft beer revolution simply because it comes out of a keg. Most of our customers are not bothered but we do get the odd one who'll just only drink from our lovely hand­pull.

"Bah" CAMRA say to beer forcibly ejected with gas from a steel keg! Unfortunately the old school CAMRA brigade still have lots of emotional baggage around the thought and 1960's flash backs to Watneys Red Barrel, god forbid, so it'll be a few more years before we see a UK craft steel keg at a CAMRA event and I think that is a real shame.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on Crask, the keg debate and all things beer related so make sure to get in touch on facebook or twitter.

Lessons in the liquid you love: Beer Strengths

At Kraft Werks we often get asked why is “craft beer” so strong in alcohol compared to so called “traditional ales”. I think we have all seen so called traditional ales such as bitters, golden beers and milds now tend to be around 3.8% these days well this wasn't always the case. Beer strengths in the UK were much higher traditionally prior to the 1970's, things started to change slowly from the 1930's through to the 1970's with increased taxation on beer alcohol levels, homogenization and mass production.

Having taken a look at the fascinating beer blog Barclay Perkins, we've seen that traditional XX & KKK beers were the very popular with British drinkers and these beers were often 8, 9, 10% or even stronger.

As one well beer-informed customer told recently me the Victorians would have given 3.5% to their children at the dinner table. Also, prior to the 1960's, we would have been drinking beer more commonly in half’s rather than pints (probably a refection of those higher ABVs and changing tastes) with pints of beer being requested and not given as a standard in pubs. Another interesting fact is a lot of British beers historically were barrel aged for up to a year before serving in pubs and prior to WW1 beers were often blended in the pub for the customer (interesting as we now associate blended beers purely with the Belgium brewers). So the next time you're in Kraft Werks and you see a 9% Barrel Aged Imperial Stout Beer on draught, when it's served in a half pint, remember that’s a true “traditional” ale. A fact overlooked is that craft beer really can often be a more genuine representation of the historical British beers.