I learn today that Alltech have bought a Cumbrian Brewing company. Cumberland Breweries is situated in the north of our county in a place called Corby. They make Corby Ale, for instance, an inoffensive and popular beer. Some might say lacking character, but that is in the palate of the drinker I guess.
Dr Pearse Lyons, who ownes Alltech, is an interesting character. I've met him. Friendly, personable, and seemingly interested in knowing about people. He is also a Billionaire. One could argue that he deserves his success due to his obvious abilities. Never-the-less, I'm somewhat worried about his foray into the UK brewing industry.
Dr Lyons modus operandi so far in the Irish market is to attempt to be friends to all. I know there has been some skepticism to this during his Alltech events in Dublin. We've been to two such events, which have been quite different to each other. The third, it seems, was different again. Finding his feet in a market that is probably moving faster than the UK, and potentially has less established tradition allows him to fly high with the craft beer message.
Over here in the UK, with established organisations like CAMRA, SIBA and other such bodies, his approach is bound to have to be less conciliatory, and much more aggressive. I'm certainly concerned about his arrival in the UK, and can see that it might well spell the start of something new. How desirable that will be remains to be seen.
Personally, I'm not all that sure Cumberland Breweries make anything that I'd like to consider Craft Beer. Dr Lyons is purporting his craft brewery credentials. Off course, he might be planning on lifting the Cumberland Brewery image to that of craft. Equally, I'm unsure if this would be good or bad overall. Then again, perhaps he sees more of a future in the traditional side of the British beer industry.
I'll be watching developments of this move quite carefully. For sure I think it might well be the start of various alternative ownership models that will slowly percolate through the industry. What I am fairly sure about is that the industry cannot sustain the numbers of breweries that are now evident. I am convinced that breweries smaller than ours fail to have a chance of sustainable progression. This is simply due to the economics of supporting the owner and workforce and generating an autonomous entity that can be sold.
I do see a future of breweries either being merged, or bought out, and those that do not go through this change are likely to fade out of existence, unless they become big enough in their own right.