Thursday, November 8, 2012

Congratulations Richard

So over the last week some pretty big news has dropped. ‘Our’ iconic and pioneering craft brewery Emerson’s Brewing Co has been sold to Lion Breweries. I have a column out next week so while I don’t want to scoop myself I do want to express my views on the sale. The news has predictably resulted in an out pouring of grief and feelings of betrayal from many corners, an understandable but in my view knee jerk reaction.  For those of us who want to see craft beer in this country grow the sale offers some great potential, and for Emerson’s some great benefits and some great risks.
On the positive this will allow Emerson’s to grow, it will offer the potential for Emerson’s to crack the Auckland market, we will soon possibly be able to walk into Lion bars that previously had a Macs Hoprocker in the fridge as a ‘craft’ option and buy Emerson’s Pilsner or Booky , perhaps even from the tap. At a bigger picture it really shows that craft is now a big enough ‘thing’ that the big boys can’t keep ignoring it, and they can’t just come up with beers on their own to crack the craft segments. The deal is that Emerson’s will be run as an autonomous business and Richard assures me that the company will still be run by himself with creative control residing in his hands. If this pans out then it shows that Lion realise the best way to succeed at craft is to let a craft brewer do it. This brings me to the risk to Emersons. There are many stories of breweries being taken over and ruined.  Just because Lion says this, does not mean it will actually pan out.  But if they do meddle , and dumb down and fill the brand with bullshit then they will have ruined their own investment. For Richard , his mother and the other shareholders who have invested through the years to make Emersons what it is today I say ‘Congratulations’ the return on your investment , whatever that is , is most deserved. When I heard the news I texted Richard and congratulated him, I knew he would be getting flak from many and despite my conflicted reaction wanted to be positive.  More than that I think I am positive.
I have both a personal, professional and emotional connection to the Emerson’s Brewery and the people who work there. If Lion fuck it up I will be heartbroken, but for now I remain cautiously optimistic.  

Picture used courtesy of Jed Soane and all rights remain with him.