NAILING OUR COLOURS TO THE MOTHER FUCKING MAST

Taking a stand for craft beer

Independence is the new craft.

Goose Island. Camden Town Brewery. Meantime. Elysian. Lagunitas. Ballast Point. Nøgne Ø. Golden Road. RIP.

2015 has been a bad year for craft beer. Global beer mega corporations, the ones who destroyed, bastardised and commoditized beer over the last 50 years have been acquiring craft breweries left right and centre. Let’s be honest, the intentions of these big companies are completely clear: they cut costs, they cut people, they cut corners and they take pride in doing so. Their God is market share and their stock market valuations; they act accordingly.

Craft brewer’s God is amazing beer.

Disillusioned at their declining sales (for instance, Budweiser has lost 16 million barrels between 2003 and 2013) the mega corporations want a piece of the craft beer action. However, it is by standing for everything that big beer is not that craft beer become so successful.

Once you scratch the surface of the recent acquisitions, the picture is pretty damning:

Nøgne Ø

Within months of selling to a mega beer corporation, Nøgne Ø founder and former CEO Kjetil Jikiun posted this message on Facebook. He said the new buyers had ensured "Nøgne Ø The Uncompromising Brewery was changing into Grey Ø The Average Brewery" and the new values introduced were "Good Enough. Mediocre. Average." Kjetil left, obviously distressed as to what became of the brewery he loved. At the time of the acquisition both Kjetil and Hansa (the buyer) insisted nothing would change. It obviously did, and quickly.

Meantime

Meantime was acquired by SAB Miller in May of this year. Meantime Managing Director Nick Miller said SAB Miller ‘believe in longevity of Meantime and puts beer first’. Despite claiming it was ‘born and brewed in London’ Meantime London Lager was soon brewed in Holland (thus wilfully deceiving the consumer). Despite being in for the long haul and insisting nothing will change, less than six months after the acquisition Meantime has been put up for sale again.

Goose Island

Now mainly made at a Budweiser brewery in upstate New York, Goose Island is still marketed as being brewed in Chicago; even with a brand called 312 (which is Chicago’s area code). Goose Island’s Suzanne Wolcott admits Goose IPA’s recipe is massively different when brewed at the AB-InBev owned Labatt brewery in Canada. Looking at reviews and feedback online, it is obvious the beer has changed for the worse.

Elysian & Lagunitas

Dick Cantwell, founder and former CEO of Elysian brewed a beer called Loser IPA: Corporate Beer Sucks. As soon as Elysian was sold, he left, saying he is a “craft brewer, past, present and future.” He also said "My concerns were never even considered as a factor… From the start it was me against everyone else, with no regrets expressed."

And Tony Magee, founder of Lagunitas, said this...

...and that he would rather die at his desk than sell out, before selling out to Heineken - it feels pretty hollow too. 

Outgoing founders always say nothing will change. Except Everything Does. And the reality is they are powerless to stop any changes.

Big beer companies need a return on their investment into craft brewers, they are not doing this for fun or because they love beer. This return can only happen in one of two ways:

1) They sell much more of Camden/Goose Island/Elysian at a much better margin. Meaning they have to produce the beer more cheaply at a much bigger scale.

Even yesterday Jasper from Camden insisted nothing would change. The reality is that he's now an employee of AB-InBev and completely powerless to stop any changes the parent company want to make.

The first thing that will change at Camden is their cost of goods. Just by being owned by AB-InBev the beer duty Camden will pay on a 50L keg of Hells will instantly increase by around £20. On their current production numbers (quoted at 65,000 HL this year) the difference between full duty and half beer duty is approximately an extra £2.7m of beer duty annually.

To put this into perspective, in their last financial year Camden made £319k of profit. So all of a sudden Camden have much, much higher beer duty costs and they also need to generate significantly more profit to give AB-InBev a return. Something will have to give. No prizes for guessing what it will be.

2) They leverage the crafty brands in their portfolio to sell much more of their big beer brands, thus locking other true craft brands out of retail.

The mega corporations are offering huge discounts on their ailing mass-market brands to customers to stock their newly acquired crafty brands. For instance, the AB ‘Promo-Opti’ plan offers steep discounts on Bud and Bud Light if a retailer stocks Goose Island.

Thus, brands like Lagunitas, Nøgne Ø, Goose Island and Ballast Point are used as pawns to lock out true craft brewers and also to drive higher sales of lowest common denominator fizzy yellow lager. These acquired former craft brewers are being used by the big brewers to kill and stifle the craft category.

It is pretty ironic that once iconic craft brews are being used to push mass market beer sales and lock out other craft beers.

We believe independence is massively important to great beer. We believe the lack of overbearing parent company is key to being able to make fantastic beer. We believe that the evidence massively shows mega corporations taking over former craft brewers is horrifically bad for the beer, for the consumer, and for the industry overall. And we love all 3 of these things.

So that is why we are going to take a stand.

We are going to nail our colours to the mother fucking mast. We are going to live and die by what we believe in and the values we hold true. We are not doing this for money, we are doing this because we love craft beer. We are doing this because, despite having seen it hundreds of times, the video at the top of this blog still gives us goosebumps.

We are going to entrench our independence. We are going to call a meeting of our Equity Punk investors and propose an amendment to our articles of association. We intend to make 37.5 of the BrewDog plc articles read as follows:

37.5 “The Board will exercise its discretion granted in Article 37.1 to refuse to register any transfer of any Certificated Share to a transferee who is a monolithic purveyor of bland industrial beer.”

The wording is our lawyers. But we kinda like it.

We are BrewDog. We are independent. We are in this for the beer. And we are here to stay.

James, Martin and the Team x

BrewDog is owned by over 30,000 people who love great craft beer. You can find out how to join them here www.brewdog.com/equityforpunks

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Comments (72)

Da one man party 16.01.2016 @ 2:45am
Craft brewers as well as craft beer drinkers are a close family. Spread the word about big beers buying up craft breweries, quit buying the new brewery beers. When the see their investments failing they will stop buying them. Consumers have more power than these cooperate idiots think.
RateBeer JoeT 15.01.2016 @ 7:34pm
Yes!
anonymous 15.01.2016 @ 7:33pm
Here here!
Jon 13.01.2016 @ 1:46pm
Indeed!

Can you use your position of being able to get good beer into supermarkets and pubs to get good beer by other craft brewers into those supermarkets and pubs. Tesco's seems to be filling up with big chains 'craft beers' squeezing out any opposition. The revolution needs it's muscle.

Support the revolution. Become a benevolent dictator. March on Tesco's (it's a lot nearer than Poland). Bring snacks!
PETEMOTS 09.01.2016 @ 7:10pm
This is a little off topic but.....WE NEED A BREWDOG IN LOS ANGELES PLEASE!
Mike H 09.01.2016 @ 5:20pm
Love the commitment and your passion for true craft beer! Can. Not. Wait. to have your new brewery and U.S. Operation in central OH-IO and making your quality brews more easily available to those on our side of the pond!
Moral David 09.01.2016 @ 10:50am
Keep standing and keep fighting.

Qualify and passion are difficult things to turn away from once you have seen the light, and after this ideal weaves it's way into you mind there really is no way back, it just extends into other areas of your life.

I'm not worried about these accusations, the people they have help bring to the cause will ensure craft beer stays strong. But I am sad that people who seemed share my value have abandoned them.
PETEMOTS 09.01.2016 @ 3:15am
I've always liked U guys,now...........I Fucking LOVE U GUYS!!!! STAY HARD BOTHERS!
Tomé Morrissy-Swan 08.01.2016 @ 4:54pm
Agree with everything. Love the sentiment.

Can you make your beer a bit cheaper please???
Salome 08.01.2016 @ 1:28pm
... But can you schmooze enough to 'Spoons and get Vagabond on their shelves? Any gf beer there would be welcome, Vagabond would be bloody brilliant.
BrewDog Rich 08.01.2016 @ 11:10am
Stephanie - We are no longer ordering any more Ballast Point; once the stock has gone from our bars and bottle shops there won't be any more.
Stephanie 08.01.2016 @ 10:58am
You sell Ballast Point in your Birmingham bar? You also provide all your sauces at the same bar, in Ballast Point bottle boxes?
Bud Weiser 08.01.2016 @ 4:42am
Y'all are hilarious. Bitchin' and moanin' and shit.

Beer nerds are the best! So entertaining.
Neil 07.01.2016 @ 5:51pm
Having spent most of my brewing career working for mulitinational brewers, I was only truly happy on those occasions when I had a chance to brew on a small scale first as Pilot Brewery manager and then running a brewpub. The longer you stay out of the clutches of the multiples the better, you may never be rich but you won't have lost your soul either.
anonymous 07.01.2016 @ 1:40pm
Not a fan of the beer but I love the ethos and would buy a pint because of it
Yan Amstein 28.12.2015 @ 9:13pm
Tout est dit : we are brewdog! Nous sommes independants et pour toujours!
Rob 27.12.2015 @ 9:06pm
A brilliant attitude to have. I loved reading this and knowing that even you guys are doing well as a business you're still a couple of beer fanatics, just with more friends.
The Brewbellion 27.12.2015 @ 1:23pm
Even though you are almost half a world away we can feel the passion and conviction of your vision. We hear your battle cry and answer it with our own - "Rise up against flavour oppression!"
Randall the Vandal 27.12.2015 @ 11:49am
Sad to hear about Ballast Point becoming some conglomerate's brand. Keep exposing the cork soakers for the sellouts they are.
EFP123&4 25.12.2015 @ 6:38pm
Captain Underpants, you're so right:
The megacorps want to reduce once great names and brews to shite.
Meantime is a case in point. Bought, spoiled, now being sold.
Live Craft Die Punk
Martin Barnes 24.12.2015 @ 3:48pm
As an EFP IV person, I fully support your stance. Stay strong, and keep your heads while those around you are losing theirs...
Greg Koch - Stone Brewing Co. 24.12.2015 @ 11:26am
James, Martin & Crew -

I'd say "Say strong!" but I know you will. You continue to righteously represent the righteous indignation of craft beer. That's necessary. Why? Because the world of big industrial beer continues to represent all the reasons why our righteous indignation is needed. We must fight their attempts to co-opt what craft beer stands for. It stands for quality over profit, and it stands for flavor over mass-acceptance. Some profit, and some acceptance are necessary. Without those, there's no business. However, those should NOT be the overriding guiding principles...quality and flavor are!

Cheers,

Greg
steve 23.12.2015 @ 11:19pm
Well said!
Everardo 23.12.2015 @ 8:03pm
Four Peaks in Arizona just sold out to AB #RIPFourPeaks
David 23.12.2015 @ 7:00pm
Proud to be a brewdog customer.
Kav 23.12.2015 @ 2:30pm
Dis is deadly... keep it up!
Andy C 23.12.2015 @ 1:06pm
Yeah, in your face you (erm) faceless corporate martha fokkers!
Pete H 23.12.2015 @ 12:57pm
If you sell out, I will sell my shares and stop buying your (our) beer !

But, I've met you guys .......
I know you're fiercely independent and make your own rules, so it ain't going to happen.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Keep on Hopping in the real world .......
Richard English 23.12.2015 @ 9:23am
One of the breweries cited in this article is Goose Island, whose wonderful IPA I have drunk in the bottle and, memorably, on draught at the brewery. But earlier this year I drank a bottle I bought from an off-licence in Canada and was very disappointed; it was no more than ordinary. Further inspection showed that it was not brewed in Chicago but in a nameless AB chemical-fizz factory. I will not bother to try it again even though it is now sold in England (where I live).

Fortunately we now have a plethora of small breweries and there seems as yet no sign of most of them selling out - although some (like Meantime) undoubtedly will. Most people have their price, after all, and, if I had an offer of a million quid for a brewery I owned, I would probably take the cash and start another brewery (which is what happened when Hall and Woodhouse took over and closed King and Barnes in Horsham).
Graham 23.12.2015 @ 9:19am
Nice post guys. BUT did the bottle of Jack Hammer have to die?! I love that beer!
Edward Smathers 23.12.2015 @ 1:24am
Love this post! I can't express enough praise to the points you make here, since I got to see the backlash of big beer buying out small beer first hand.
Everyone loses... Except the share holders!
Scott 23.12.2015 @ 12:29am
Yes and hell yes! I have to mention that you are doing, like many breweries have done for 20 years, what Rogue does. I have no end of favorite breweries, BrewDog among them. I've even knocked back Sink the Bismarck with they guys before. But as a craft fan since '94, I have just watched Rogue set the tempo for styles, operations, farming and most of all, independence with a giant fuck you attitude.

And I say, thank you to this ideal! Keep it real, keep it punk rock and fuck the ankle-grabbers!!!
Focus on the Beer 22.12.2015 @ 11:49pm
www.brewedthehardway.com

Soon we'll get you punks from across the pond on there as well. Cheers!
Tyler 22.12.2015 @ 11:41pm
Loved the write, really want to try your beer, though I've never seen it in the southeastern united states. If I ever run across it I'll jump on the opportunity.
Muhu 22.12.2015 @ 10:41pm
Awesome blog!! Great work Brewdog.
Matt K from the USA 22.12.2015 @ 9:47pm
Though I agree. It's economics Most people with a billion dollar offer would sign so quick the ink wouldn't be finished drying. Stay punk Brewdog. Glad I make my own beer.
Ian 22.12.2015 @ 9:38pm
Australia:

Mountain Goat in Melbourne sold this year to Asahi. Very sad.

Little Creatures went to Lion 2012. The beers that made them are unrecognisable now.
Jeremy 22.12.2015 @ 7:57pm
Well done and well said. Great you are taking such a principled stand on this.

Minor point but should 'will' be changed to 'must' in your amendment. That takes away any ambiguity.....
Dave D 22.12.2015 @ 6:38pm
AB (Abhorrent Brew) just bought Breckenridge.
Thank God there are still many, many crafters left near me.....
Steven R 22.12.2015 @ 6:29pm
I would preferred to have seen the bullet bouncing off the bottle or splintering upon contact with the Jack Hammer but I agree with everything you said in principle.
Joe Blackwell 22.12.2015 @ 6:24pm
I've been out of the craft beer scene for a little while as I've been travelling so I had no idea that some of these brilliant craft brewers have thrown in the bar towel and sold up. What a huge shame.

Stay indie BrewDog.
Lloydy 22.12.2015 @ 6:13pm
I love this article and I love that BrewDog have an uncompromising passion for great beer. Keep on rockin' in the free World guys!
Adam Aberra 22.12.2015 @ 6:07pm
http://www.breckbrew.com/blog/a-letter-from-your-friends-at-breckenridge-brewery

another one bites the dust...

Looks like CTB are happy to be in the same category as Stella..."High End" my ass...
James William 22.12.2015 @ 5:56pm
Abso-fucking-lutely A-men brothers.

Selling an independent craft brewery to AB InBev to safeguard quality is like selling a priceless silk tapestry to a bunch of ravenous moths - doomed to clusterfuckery.

CTB's owner should acknowledge he only cares about the cash and stop pretending he cares about his customers or staff.
Richy Rich 22.12.2015 @ 5:48pm
Can equity punks vote by post? I'm currently in Sao Paulo. Or perhaps my local Brew Dog bar, could act as an international polling station?
Matt 22.12.2015 @ 5:41pm
Really well researched and well argued piece. Of course things will change.

Well done for taking a stand. Makes me proud to be an Equity Punk.
Becky H 22.12.2015 @ 5:40pm
Amazing blog BrewDog.

Love the passion and the commitment to the craft.

You now have an even bigger fan.
BrewDog Team 22.12.2015 @ 5:39pm
Hey Mike,

beer duty is largely based on your production of the previous year. Also, beer brewed overseas does not count towards the UK duty rate calculation. So given Camden sold around 30,000 HL last year, of which just over half was brewed in Belgium it is likely they are paying a duty rate currently on a production of around 13-15,000 HL. Which is much, much, much less than full duty they will now have to pay!

Hope this helps,

BrewDog x
Ryan 22.12.2015 @ 5:30pm
Thanks for standing up for independent, consumer focused and beer centric Brewers. The whole ballast point thing still makes me sad... Maybe you should look into being the sole importer of Cigar City brewing in the UK????
DaveN 22.12.2015 @ 5:29pm
I hell yes!!
Mike 22.12.2015 @ 5:13pm
If CTB are producing 65K HL this year then they will already be paying full wack, the same as Inbev. They would only pay 1/2 if they were sub 5K HL, then a sliding scale up to 60K HL when they stop benefiting from small brewers relief. Or am I wrong?
Dan Ack 22.12.2015 @ 4:46pm
My shares will only be transferred when I'm deep in the cold, cold ground. And they will pass to a family member. Never sell out, never give up.
BrewDog Rich 22.12.2015 @ 4:15pm
Marcus - You're quite right - we are no longer ordering any more Ballast Point due to their $1bn buyout by Constellation Drinks. Once the stock has gone from our bars and bottle shops there won't be any more.
SWAN BLENDER 22.12.2015 @ 3:59pm
Thank you Brewdog for giving a shit. These soul extracting corporates will never see my money.
Captain Underpants 22.12.2015 @ 3:37pm
Eh, good on ya.

One other insidious issue is the long game being played for hearts and minds. Tasteless Piss Megacorps keep buying craft labels and turn the beer to shit. It's gotten so endemic that half the "craft" beers on the store shelf are a sham. Result? People buy several different kinds of what they think is craft beer and end up with a misinformed opinion about what good beer can be. Predictably they decide "eh, not that great" and "not worth the premium" and go back to buying the cheap Tasteless Piss -- and think they're smarter for it.
Marcus Chaplin 22.12.2015 @ 3:16pm
Love your stance on this but it is at odds with what is being sold in your bottle shops (particularly Glasgow) which has a fairly significant Ballast Point selection - To fully live up to the mantra you should stop selling these, no?
Dipak 22.12.2015 @ 3:06pm
Duvel aren't quite Heineken or even AB-InBev. Duvel are family owned and brew good beer. And yes Heineken are family owned, but they produce bland industrial piss. Duvel still tastes good, the Tripel Hop tastes fucking spectacular.
anonymous 22.12.2015 @ 2:41pm
Hell yeah!!! I'm all in, fuck 'em! #independenceordeath We.Are.Brewdog.
Ian Prise 22.12.2015 @ 2:30pm
People who know I'm an Equity Punk have asked me in the past when I think Brewdog will be taken over by a big brewery.
My reply has always been I think they'd rather sell Bracken/Simcoe to a Korean butcher than sell out.
Glad to see this seems to be the case!
Scoot. 22.12.2015 @ 2:29pm
Brilliant.

Don't ever sell or give in to these magacorp fuckers.

Brewdog forever.
Andrew 22.12.2015 @ 2:28pm
Why does beer duty increase?
Adam Aberra 22.12.2015 @ 2:21pm
Thanks for the great post and for the great beer, guys! Massively disappointed about CTB selling out and their weasel of a CEO pretending he didn't have a choice. How can he honestly say that this was the only way to go when he only needed £14 mil to build a new brewery... If his financially robust, growing company could attract a serious offer from Ab InBev with such a significant premium on top of the market value he could have easily negotiated a better deal or just walked away and taken a couple of venture capitalists on for a smaller slice of the pie and kept true beer lovers happy.

The point about the higher duty on their product under the new ownership is such an incredibly important piece of information and it's a disgrace that CTB CEO Jasper failed to address any serious issues in his letter to investors...

Since Ab InBev don't really care about beer maybe a crowd funding drive to poach the original CTB premises from the new owner??? Who's with me :)

Adam
Nick 22.12.2015 @ 2:18pm
Matt, they also left out Redhook and Widmer. Of course, they might not be old enough to remember those...
Matthew Curtis 22.12.2015 @ 2:16pm
Fair point, it's just that you never made quite this level of fuss when FW went to Duvel.
Sindigo 22.12.2015 @ 2:05pm
Well put. Keep fighting the good fight.
BrewDog Rich 22.12.2015 @ 1:58pm
Hi Matt - this is not an exhaustive list of those who have been taken over, no. And with AB-InBev buying another US craft brewer this week (Four Peaks), if it were an exhaustive list, it would only be getting longer.
Fraser Pirrie 22.12.2015 @ 1:54pm
Absolutely - keep this up!
Matthew Curtis 22.12.2015 @ 1:49pm
Is there any reason specifically why Firestone Walker have been left out of this piece? I mean all plaudits to you for standing by what you believe in, but surely with this attitude it's all or nothing, right?
Phill 22.12.2015 @ 1:47pm
Calm down dear, it's only beer.
Ian 22.12.2015 @ 1:44pm
You've got my vote.
Will 22.12.2015 @ 1:43pm
Awesome, hell fucking yeah!
Phil 22.12.2015 @ 1:38pm
Right. Fucking. On.