Heineken buys Led Zeppelin son craft brewery

The context is impossible to ignore. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) estimates that some 60 to 70 smaller brewers have collapsed so far this year, succumbing to the pressures of higher energy bills, higher transportation costs and rising grain prices. These challenges make the security of a large brewer’s huge balance sheets more attractive.

Nik Antona, National President of CAMRA, said: “Many of the smaller breweries don’t have the reserves the bigger guys have, or the access to borrow money to keep the business going. And a lot of them are having a hard time.”

Beavertown joins a growing list of medium-sized British brewers that have fallen into foreign hands in recent years.

Meantime, based in Greenwich, was acquired by SABMiller in 2015 for £120 million; Camden Town Brewery was sold to AB Inbev later that year for £85 million. Fourpure became part of the Japanese Kirin Holdings in 2018.

While selling can provide the security of a major financier, it now always offers stability. Fourpure was re-sold to Kent-based Odyssey Inns earlier this year. Meanwhile, it was sold to Asahi breweries in 2016.

Workers at Beavertown’s two factories in Tottenham and Enfield would be forgiven for nervously investigating Heineken’s recent custody of British brewers.

In May, the company announced the closure of the Calendonian Brewery in Edinburgh, which opened in 1869, and transferred the job of making Deuchars IPA to Greene King’s Belhaven Brewery in Dunbar.

Heineken promised that Beavertown “will continue to grow and prosper, while remaining committed to its independent creativity”.

Industry insiders expect the deal will lead to some changes in the processes at Beavertown in the pursuit of profit, as is common when a major brewer takes over a minnow.

The deal will keep BrewDog the UK’s largest independent craft brand. Combative founder James Watt has long vowed not to sell.

“It’s obviously disappointing news,” Watt said of the Beavertown sale. “Independence is so important to so many craft beer drinkers. They need to know that love, care and passion are in every sip.

“The majors have a lot of other priorities, and I’m not sure a real passion for real craft beer is one of them. If we have to fly the flag for artisanal independence, so be it, we will do it with pride.”

Watt’s reputation was dented among craft beer believers after it was announced earlier this year that he had bought shares in Heineken.

Hobday has raised much of the money his company needs through crowdfunding, selling stock to drinkers. He takes inspiration – and hope – from the beer scene on the other side of the Atlantic, where craft beer has a larger market share.

“A lot of American breweries are very successful without having to sell — it’s entirely possible,” he says.