Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Craft Brewery Backlash: Success Breeds Contempt

Photo: Adam Barhan (CCL)
We're so bloody British sometimes, aren't we...? We encourage innovation and growth, only to turn on success. When things fail, we're the first to say 'I told you so', and when things go well, we resent people for it.

I remember the same sort of thing happened when the Arctic Monkeys got big. There was a little underground buzz that they were incredibly hip and cool, and I remember hearing from a friend of mine that they were a brilliant band, and one to watch. A few months later, the album, 'Whatever People Say I Am, Thats What I'm Not' and 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' had gone mental, and the same friend turned to me and professed they're 'rubbish' and that he 'never really thought much of them'.

The same is happening in the beer industry. You only have to look on some forums, talk in a pub, bar or bottleshop to hear people speaking adversely of breweries that have done incredibly well - that were hip, original and different a couple of years ago - and now because they are successful, they're not cool to like anymore.

For some people, they justify their comments with 'but their ethos has changed', or 'they don't make the beer the same as they used to'.

For me, this has become most apparent in the backlash against the likes of Brewdog. Just a couple of years ago, Brewdog was seen as cool and hip and the creator of boundary-pushing, tongue-twisting craft beers. Exponential growth, success and a public listing, however, is not hipster and cool. Cue backlash, calls of 'the beer has changed' or 'it's mass-produced now', 'it's no longer craft' etc. I'm bored of it.

And it really, really pisses me off when consumers boycott a beer because of who owns it. Who bloody well cares who owns it - if it's still good beer, then celebrate the fact that it's good by drinking it. Get off your high horse - you're not too good for that beer or brewery. Shut up, sit down, drink it, and enjoy it for what it is.

The amount of people I talk to who won't drink Doom Bar because it's now owned by Coors, an American brewer. How ridiculous. If you knew how much money Coors have invested in the brewery in Rock, Cornwall, the number of jobs it has created and the consistency of the beer it produces, how could you possibly speak ill of it? Don't be so ignorant.

The same goes for Goose Island. Budweiser bought the brewery last year, and have increased production, invested heavily in distribution and marketing, and introduced a great beer to the masses.

It is actually a compliment and sign of how the industry is changing that these big brewers are buying up small micros and craft breweries - they see potential in what they're doing and realise that craft is the future. Consumers' habits are changing, they're not drinking as much, but when they do, they want quality over quantity.

So, to all of you who are guilty of the above, celebrate a beer for what it is, in its own right, on the merits that are important - taste and consistency. That's not too hard to ask, is it?


  1. Totally agree about Goose Island and Doom Bar. Brewdog... not so much, really. I do agree that if people are turning away from them because of their success then it's ridiculous, but I think a lot of people have lost faith in them more because of their outspoken and sometimes quite childish public relations antics.
    I'm not one of those people (I just reeeeally like the Dead Pony Club and the Punk IPA and will keep buying it!) but I can see how it would put some people off...

    And I've always liked the Arctic Monkeys. ;-)

  2. I don't drink Goose Island anymore - not because it's owned by AB InBev but because it's now brewed in massive Bud Light churning factories and tastes terrible - Trust me, I went to one and found out for myself!

    So in this case when people say 'they don't make this like they used to' they're right. For the record I have nothing against mass produced beer - I'm a serial Duvel/Pilsner Urquell drinker much of the time.