Camden Town Brewery, one of Britain’s most successful ‘craft’ beer makers, announced today that it is in the process of being acquired by AB In-Bev, the largest drinks company in the entire world and the owner of Stella Artois, Beck's and Budweiser. You won’t be surprised to hear the deal has upset some of Twitter’s craft beer aficionados, who pride themselves on holding Stella drinkers in high contempt.
‘What’s the going rate for a soul?’ asked one. ‘It goes against our ethos to sell any AB INBEV,’ tweeted Kentish Town pub the Rose & Crown. Never ones to miss out on a bit of publicity, Scottish beer ‘punks’ Brewdog took the opportunity to drum up some column inches, announcing they would be pulling Camden Town’s beers from their bars (perhaps a surprising measure from a company that sells beer to Tesco and JD Wetherspoon).
— BrewDog Camden (@BrewDogCamden) December 21, 2015
Camden Town hasn’t wasted any time in adopting the language of a big corporate – describing the 100% sale of the company as a ‘strategic partner[ship]’ and insisting the deal would give the business the 'security we need to continue.’
Founder and CEO Jasper Cuppaidge made a point of saying he would remain at the helm. ‘I'm on watch,’ he told Business Insider. ‘I'm not going anywhere. I'm the CEO of Camden Town Brewery and I'm going to be around forever. Nothing's going to change.’
Unless AB InBev decides otherwise, of course. It must have been a difficult decision for Cuppaidge, given the fate of Meantime, which is already set to be cast aside after being acquired by SABMiller just seven months ago.
The big winner in today’s news is equity crowdfunding. This marks only the second successful exit for crowdfund investors. Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, the brewery said the deal represents a ‘very successful exit’ for its backers. If that’s true then the likes of Crowdcube, which hosted Camden Town’s crowdfunding round, should have an easier time convincing its armchair investors to part with their cash in the future.
There’s nothing wrong with selling up, of course. A big money exit is a big motivator for many entrepreneurs, and Cuppaidge is probably right that AB InBev could turn Camden Town into a ‘world famous’ brewer. But there's a risk that craft beer's very particular fans could eschew Camden Town's products for something a little more 'authentic'. And let's not pretend it's a 'partnership', eh?