The independent Greenwich-based brewer Meantime has been bought by SABMiller, the drinks giant behind Fosters and Peroni. The deal sparked alarm among some beer lovers on Twitter and comments by Meantime's brewmaster appeared to hail the end of “craft” beer.
So the deal means time's been called on 'craft' beers?
Hold on: SAB isn't looking to change Meantime's successful formula - what it wants is a slice of the so-called "craft" market, which is growing by about 60 per cent a year as drinkers turn on to the more complex and experimental flavours produced by the burgeoning numbers of small brewers. In contrast, the overall UK beer market is only growing by 1 per cent a year. Both parties insist that the brand would keep its distinct character. But Meantime's brewer Alastair Hook, who founded the company in Greenwich, south-east London, in 2005, did admit yesterday that he thinks the term “craft” beer will disappear within 10 years.
Is that not worrying?
Not really. Mr Hook believes the deal is a good one. He’s talking more about the term itself, and reckons its death will be good news “as the brewing world recalibrates itself and aligns itself with a passion for great beer made well”. In his blog, he adds that Meantime stands to "benefit hugely from the science and experience of of SABMiller ... the real winners are beer drinkers".
Does everyone agree?
Some fans took to Twitter to lament the deal and even accuse Meantime of a "sell-out". Mr Hook acknowledged concerns, but said: “I have never seen scale and quality as mutually exclusive ... I know some craft brewers have reservations about working with bigger brewers, but if this association means Meantime and SABMiller producing a wider range of better beer, in greater volume, served to more and more appreciative drinkers, my brewers and I raise our glasses to the future.”
Is this the first such deal?
Not at all - the sale of Cornish brewery Sharp’s – most famous for Doom Bar – to Molson Coors in 2011 received a cool reception. Doom Bar has since achieved international cult status and is a top-selling UK cask beer. "Beer geeks" were also up in arms over the sale of Chicago's Goose Island brewery to Anheuser-Busch the same year, but it's still seen as a top craft brewer despite its big business owner.
When will the latest deal complete?
The acquisition of Meantime and its range of traditional British and European beers is expected to complete next month.