Normally I’d be starting this article hoping you all had a fantastic christmas and fun new year, welcoming you back to a brand new year of taproom articles.  However for many people it won’t have been a merry christmas or a happy new year, especially those in the Calder Valley.  As you will know, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge took the brunt of the flood water which overflowed the river defences all along the valley, not forgetting Copley, Elland and Brighouse.  A number of pubs were temporarily affected, but have managed to clean up and fully re-open again after much hard work by staff.  However many pubs are out of action for the immediate future, especially those in Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd.   The latter has lost the Shoulder of Mutton, Dusty Miller and Libertine Micro-brewery and pub, leaving it with virtually no pubs to service the town, remembering the Black Lion has been closed for a long time.

Hebden Bridge currently has the Shoulder of Mutton out of action until further notice, the Old Gate closed for repairs for a week or two, whilst the White Lion escaped any major damage and is open as normal, the same true for the Fox and Goose.  The Stubbing Wharf took some major damage being located between the two water courses into town and is closed for the foreseeable future.  Calans is closed in the medium term after opening for a short while post new year with real ales direct from the cask.   Other pubs in the town towards main street have also suffered major flooding damage.   Sowerby Bridge has only lost the Firehouse to water ingress, but all other pubs are operating as normal as we speak.

Whilst discussing the town, I finally had a chance to pop into The Sowerby Taps over the festive period and like the place.   Nice and friendly, having a good range of four real ales which are kept well and is getting a good mix of locals and visitors on a regular basis.  A welcome addition to the town in this long term pub location.   The pubs which have opened during 2015 have done really well and are doing good beer, something I’m happy to report.  Let’s hope that 2016 see’s a mix of good new venues opening and flooded pub’s re-opening, then let’s support these venues with our business as the only way to keep a healthy pub industry is to spend our beer tokens at the pub!

Whilst Pubpaper was taking a holiday, Camden Town Brewery was taken over by AB InBev for £85 million.   The brewery was started in 2010 and had just raised £2.75 million via crowdfunding and sold a 20% stake for £20 million to overseas investors.  The purpose of this fundraising was to build a second brewery on a separate site as the current plant in Camden Town had been running at capacity for a while.  These investors will make an immediate profit on their investment, but that is not the reason why over ten thousand people invested in the crowdfunding.  They invested because they wanted to support an independent craft brewer who made good beer.  The owner said that everything would stay the same, but allow them to reach a wider market.  

However, looking at other craft brewers who have been taken over by multinational brewers, they want the craft cache with craft beer prices, but without the costs of making it.   Ingredients are substituted for cheaper options, eventually brewing is moved to one of their mega breweries and the whole ethos of the company is diluted.  A prime example of this happening is Doom Bar, based in Cornwall who were brought out by Molson Coors to be their “real ale brand” where both of the above happened and Ab InBev’s Goose Island where the cost of production was reduced by degrading quality of products.   Reaction in the market was immediate, Brewdog removed Camden Town products from sale the minute the announcement was made, and social media were vociferous in their condemnation of the deal, especially as the brewery were one of higher profile poster boys of craft beer.

Many “craft beer” drinkers are already saying they will not buy Camden Town beers, and what have they to lose, if Camden Town want to lose the hearts of their core customers then there is another 1000 brewers waiting to take their place.     A few years ago another London based brewer got taken over in a similar fashion when Meantime Brewery got purchased by SABMiller, becoming their “craft” offering.  So after losing the “craft beer” followers and being absorbed into the mainstream beer world, they are being cast back out into the world after being put up for sale.  If they are purchased by a large or medium multinational brewers, the status quo remains the same, but if not they will lose the enhanced distribution chain that SABMiller offered and have to win back the drinkers and outlets on their own with far fewer resources than they are used to.