You may have noticed that there are some “craft” beer brands that are starting to appear in a lot of pubs, bars and restaurants, sometimes at the expense of local beers, sometimes just creating disappointment when you see a new place open advertising “craft beers” only to find the same old beers on the menu.
Possibly the most prolific in this category in our area is Beavertown Brewery with Neck Oil and Gamma Ray quite commonly available. This brewery is now owned by Heineken and has seen huge expansion in their production capacity and benefits from a large scale sales and distribution network as well as a large estate of Heineken owned venues (including pubs leased by independent operators from Star Pubs & Bars or Punch Taverns) to supply.
Another internationally owned “craft” brand is Camden Town Brewery. Whilst the name encourages you to dream of hipsters down Camden Locks in London brewing small batch artisan ales the brewery is actually owned by AV Inbev, the same global company behind Budweiser, Corona, Becks, Leffe and Stella Artois who again have a huge sales, marketing and distribution resource.
Also in this category is Brixton Brewery, owned by Heineken and I’d also conisider Brewdog too now they have grown into a global brand with beers like Punk IPA not what they were and available cheaply in supermarkets.
Some commentators are drawing parallels with the earlier days of CAMRA where the national “Big Six” brewers dominated pubs, making it difficult for smaller regional brewers to access the market and giving consumers less choice as a result.
Of course the likes of Beavertown and Camden Town started out as small independent brewers using quality ingredients and a passion for good beer before selling out to the big boys who saw rising demand for craft and wanted that market for themselves.
People are having conversations on whether any kind of campaigning or lobbying for a modern day version of the guest beer rights should take place, however for now the best way to support small, independent local (and not so local) brewers is to choose their beers where it is on the bar or menu – pubs, bars and restaurants are businesses and will sell what makes them money after all!