It is evident to me that the larger tranche of those craft breweries in the ‘big smoke’ are looking to capitalise on their dominant established craft beer positions and through links with Manchester – forged by the influx of southern money in to the proliferation of bars and restaurant in the Northern Quarter over the last few years – expect to sell their well known wares here too.
The danger for the newer breweries in Manchester who will not have the same connections necessarily to do the same in reverse is that the market is flooded with distribution in large volume from London breweries. To make this worse when they sell up here they sell on multibuy to get an economy on delivery. Anyone can see the damaging effect it will have on the availability of pumps for local stock. This is the tip of a larger Titanic sinking iceberg in my opinion. The acquisition of Meantime Brewing by SABMiller is, in my own (some would say paranoid) view, the start of a devastating Trojan horse style attack on the craft beer market by the giant brewers who would like to kill it dead.
Here is the greatest danger. Once they have control of large brands in craft, they can use their dominant distribution network to populate most of the pubs with “craft” beers. In time-honoured style they will water the recipes down in flavour and make them more profitable/cost effective. While most drinkers haven’t yet tried proper craft beer because the producers of these are still only able to achieve low distribution through crafty/CAMRA pubs or microbars and those brewers haven’t yet reached a lot of the demographic who they would eventually like to target, a company like SAB Miller can get there first to the masses. By achieving this dawn assault they can speed up the craft beer bubble cycle so it reaches a premature end. When craft beer on the bar is not at all full of flavour as it won’t be when brewed by a giant company…(example Doom Bar by Sharps)…nobody is going to care for craft anymore. Remember when real ale lost its quality? That was when CAMRA had to be formed. Can you imagine the Mad Max style death of craft beer? (I’ll stop tremoring now)
I have a vested interest in defending Manchester’s brewing scene. I urge all microbars and CAMRA pubs in the area to buy local. The survival of the new fledgling breweries depends on your support! We need more microbars and freehouses so that when Big Brother attempts to take over the craft beer market we have outlets who can say “No!” – and keep proper beer flavour alive. Build the barricades now before its too late.
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