In the last week two stories demonstrated the inexorable rise of craft beer. First of all we heard the news of Duvel Moortgat‘s “partnership” with California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Company, then came the news that from 5 September The Kernel Brewery will cease selling beer to be consumed on site.
No doubt fearing the inevitable backlash from craft purists, Firestone Walker’s press release was ambiguous, preferring to eschew all talk of acquisitions and takeovers. However as Chris Hall pointed out, the result of this ambiguity was that the vacuum was filled with swirling conjecture about the exact nature of the deal and its implications, particularly for Firestone Walker (as ever, the Duvel’s in the detail – I’m here all week). While my Twitter timeline was relatively optimistic, adopting a “wait and see” position, some angst was evident from the zealots of the craft beer world. You know the types, they’re like music Nazis, or those people who complain that Prague hasn’t been the same since Easyjet started flying there. Snobs in other words. A similar response was evident regarding the Kernel’s decision to close its tap room, with one comment on Facebook stating that “hipsters” had ruined it for “hardcore beer geeks”. Sheesh. Surely beer should be inclusive, not exclusive?
Personally I have no time for such bloody minded intransigence. Not all breweries are the same, and not all partnerships/takeovers (delete as appropriate) are the same either. I expected this wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth when news of SABMiller’s takeover of Meantime was announced, but Duvel Moortgat isn’t SABMiller and the possibilities afforded to both parties by this deal are exciting. Firestone Walker will be in a position to increase capacity, while Duvel Moortgat has widened its reach, adding the Paso Robles outfit to Ommegang and Boulevard Brewing Company, which they acquired in 2003 and 2013 respectively. While I can’t personally attest as to the ongoing quality of those beers, others can and do, so surely Duvel can be trusted to use the same lightness of touch with this latest deal?
Getting back to the Kernel, at first glance the news about the tap room seems negative, but you know what they say about one door closing. I was there two weeks ago and it wasn’t a pleasant experience; it was really overcrowded and we left as soon as we’d finished out drinks. But this shows what a success story the Kernel is, and who knows what’s next? A brewpub? A chain of brewpubs? That prospect, along with potentially greater access to Firestone Walker beers are reasons to be cheerful, not angry, snide or cynical.
(I later came across this interview with David Walker in brewpublic.com which significantly clarifies matters).
Image courtesy of Mary Crandall under Creative Commons via Flickr