AB InBev buys Camden Town Brewery: won’t get fooled again?

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2015 by kmflett

AB InBev buys Camden Town Brewery: won’t get fooled again?


As a trade union officer I generally prefer big businesses to small ones. The former are far from always marvellous for all the well-known reasons. They do however tend to employ lots of people on generally decent terms and behave reasonably to them because their reputation and share price is at stake quite aside from anything else.

Smaller businesses often have much better intentions but can struggle with the practice, again for well understood reasons.

The news that ABI has brought Camden Town brewery might be welcomed in that respect. 30 more jobs are to be created and I’d expect relevant trade unions to now at least be talked to if not recognised.

Capitalism tends towards monopoly which is one reason why the range of small craft breweries that have developed in the UK in the last 5 years are welcome- they provide a choice for drinkers and potentially expand the market. They doesn’t mean they are immune from how market capitalism works as the Camden Town brewery takeover underlines.

What does it mean for the beer? Who knows? This is what ABI have to say:

Iain Newell, European Director of Specialities & Craft, AB InBev, said: “We have a passion for great beer. Camden Town is a creative business with a great range of brands that will complement our existing portfolio. We will support their ambitious plans for the future, using our expertise and global distribution network to help them get their great beer to more people.”

My guess would be that aside from accountants looking for the usual synergies they’ll leave Camden Town alone for the time being until someone not involved in the current deal appears at ABInBev and wonders why the acquisition was made and what should be done with it. Then anything might be possible, good and bad.

There are a range of potential business models and it’d be surprising if at the point of acquisition a decision had been made on which might be pursued.

It might ultimately be determined that its the brand and its access to markets that is important and the existing brewery shut. That has been the model of mergers and takeovers in UK brewing (see Greene King for an example from recent decades)

Alternatively the existing brewery could continue brewing mostly small batch beers with large scale production elsewhere (Hells according to the FT is already mostly brewed in Germany-Belgium according to CTB today). This is broadly the model Molson Coors have used at Sharps with production of a good bit of Doom Bar at Burton not Rock.

A third option might be to focus on the well known brands such as Hells and ditch the small batch stuff.

It is of course all to be found in Capital Vol 1, ideal Xmas reading for craft beer lovers… (& Marx was very keen on beer)

In the meantime I would echo a thought on twitter. Let’s hope the existing Camden Town employees dont get dumped on in all the noise and interest.


Jasper Cuppidge, Camden Town Brewery founder and current owner ran a Twitter Q&A on the AB InBev takeover on Monday afternoon. Credit to him for doing so. Mostly these matters are hidden behind press statements and working out what is happening is left to financial analysts.

That said Cuppidge will have been restrained by business law from saying much of note.

He defended the deal as good for his business (which I’m certain is correct) and revealed that the new brewery will be in Enfield.

Enfield is large Borough on the edge of London that at its northern sections touches on the M25 and hence provides good transport links out of the Capital.

No doubt for that reason when News International exited Wapping they built their new printing plant more or less on the M25 at Enfield.

If the brewery is that far up I’m not sure a brewery bar will work well there(public transport links exist but are not great) but maybe the intention is to keep it in Kentish Town so we’ll see.

He also emphasised that he is staying on in charge of CTB. Well, yes, but for how long? Business at the AB InBev level can be a brutal affair and change quickly.

It remains to be seen ultimately though if what is good for CTB’s brewery also turns out to be good for the kind of beers that its fans have liked and supported it for over recent years.

At the moment no one can really know that, so it will be interesting to see

Link to Camden Town Brewery statement


One Response to “AB InBev buys Camden Town Brewery: won’t get fooled again?”

  1. To be fair, everything that AB Inbev has said about it’s Craft acquisitions in the US has been along the lines of ‘leave them to do their own thing’ with the parent giving Capital equipment and access to Wholesale. Of course, there will eventually have to be a ‘payback’ phase so these businesses have to get bigger as well, which might not rest easy with the early adopters.

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