An Honest Letter: Craft or crafty?

An Honest Letter: Craft or crafty?
December 6, 2016 Tim

It was a sunny spring afternoon and we at HonestBrew were happy. We were happy because we had designed nifty new packaging to snugly fit three cans of beer. It looked awesome. And, most importantly, the beer inside tasted awesome. We called it the Howler – a kind of play on the Growler you can buy from your local bottle shop. Fast forward six months and we were forced to cry foul.

Three weeks ago Beer Hawk took our Howler and tried to pass it off as their own innovation. Credit to them, good ideas are there for the taking, but this isn’t about three beers in a tube. This isn’t even about HonestBrew. This is about global players muscling in, dominating markets and steamrolling small businesses.

You see, the honest truth about Beer Hawk is that they are owned by AB InBev, the multinational behemoth behind Budweiser. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call them Blandy. Blandy likes a world where mediocre beer is made as cheaply as possible, sold at profit-maximising prices, and where as much shelf (and online) space as possible is colonised by its own ubiquitous brands.

Hardworking independent brewers across the globe have successfully challenged this multinational monotony, bringing us the diversity of beer we enjoy today. Blandy’s response? Aggressively acquiring once-independent breweries such as Camden Town, Birra Del Borgo and Goose Island, and more recently moving into the market through retailers like Beer Hawk and Hopt.

By hiding behind these brands, Blandy are tricking conscientious beer lovers into believing their hard-earned money is supporting the independent brewers who created this market. The reality? They are doing the one thing they know how to do well: dominate the market, reduce consumer choice and maximise their own profits. Make no mistake, in the long term this spells an almost certain end for the vast majority of independents.

You have a right to know who you’re supporting. You have the choice to get behind independent brewers, distributors & retailers who do what they do out of pure dedication and the drive for creating and sharing something unique.

At HonestBrew, we stand with the independents. We are proud to be a member of the UK beer industry, and look forward to a future where we continue to bring independent, world-class brews to beer lovers across the UK. We pledge to only support and purchase beer that is not controlled by Blandy.

If you love beer as much as we do, then join us and ensure that the standard of beer continues to rise and independent producers thrive. Don’t let Blandy muscle in.

#craftnotcrafty

Further reading:

The Modern Times Beer Blog – What ‘Selling Out’ is Actually About

Brewdog Blog – Taking a Stand for Craft Beer

19 Comments

  1. CWW1985 2 years ago

    Following my comment yesterday I am now shocked by the presence of Leffe behind door six of the Beer Hawk calendar.

    Leffe is not craft. It is not the little guy. It has been under AB InBev ownership since mid 1900’s and has been brewed out of the Stella Artois brewery for years.

    From now on #CraftNotCrafty

    • Brody 2 years ago

      Just imagine what waits behind the next lot… Ultimately that is Blandy’s intention: to situate big beer alongside true independents and pretend they are one of the same. Thanks for following up on yesterday’s comment.

      • ChrisWW1985 2 years ago

        Also – what is up with their comments section. Went to highlight my disappointment directly to their response of Honest Brew’s letter, only to find that once “Comment Successfully Posted” appears the comment is nowhere to be seen. I assume is being screened by them before making it on the site!

        Not only are they funneling niaive drinkers towards the open arms of Big Brew, they are also controlling the flow of exposure and an open dialogue.

        Shady Inbev

  2. Tom Tom 2 years ago

    Sorry, not buying it. It’s shitty that they’ve ripped off the Howler, but I’ve bought beer from both of you because you’re both providing a load of different, interesting beers. The argument that Beer Hawk are minimising choice is a load of rubbish – they’ve got a load of great beers from independent (and non-independent) breweries that you haven’t got, and you’ve got a load of great beers from independent breweries they haven’t got.

    After my last experience with Beer Hawk’s customer service I won’t be in a hurry to rush back, but this thinly veiled attack/ PR campaign certainly isn’t doing YOU any favours either. ‘Honest’ Brew indeed!

    • Brody 2 years ago

      Hi Tom Tom, cheers for taking the time to comment. The argument extends far beyond the variety of beers available on their website. It is about the methods in which Blandy aggressively acquire and dominate – in our opinion one major multinational beverage and brewing company rapidly buying up once independent retailers and breweries doesn’t create an environment which accommodates individuality and uniqueness. Secondly, the letter isn’t thinly veiled. We are clear about our intentions and our thoughts on Beer Hawk & Blandy’s methods. Neither is it a PR campaign, to us it is about securing the future of independent beer, whether you think we’re being honest in that regard is entirely up to you. Thanks again.

  3. Vauban 2 years ago

    Well despite all this financial and corporate muscle behind them, they seem to be doing a fine impression of a young start up company completely out of their depth and leaving a trail of angry customers in their wake!

    I would tweet them aggressively and see if you can’t poach some business from the legions of the disaffected …

    • Brody 2 years ago

      Thanks for the comment Vauban. This is exactly the reason why we felt it was time to speak out.

  4. GF1982 2 years ago

    I’ve had the pleasure of having been bought a couple of boxes from both yourselves and Beer Hawk over the last few years (lucky boy!). Though the beer was of very similar quality you guys definitely pipped it for me in terms of your design and overall style, although I’m not sure you can copyright putting cans in tubes! 😉

    The problem I have with this rant though is that yourselves, Beer Hawk, Eebria and all the other craft beer retailers are actually supporting and nurturing an industry I love.

    Quite frankly if Beer Hawk are taking InBev money and using it to buy a shit tonne of beers from small, independent breweries at a fair price then I see absolutely no problem – in fact, more power to them!

    Same goes for if you guys were bought out by Asahi or even an industrial-scale ‘craft’ brewing conglomerate like BrewDog or Stone. So long as you aren’t dicks to the little guy, I don’t mind who pays your bills.

    Don’t get me wrong – I completely understand why you’ve written this post, and the publicity and press coverage you’ll get from ‘sticking it to the big guy’ is a tried and tested formula in the craft beer playbook (boo hiss big beer scum!). It just feels to me that – until Beer Hawk starts selling 24 packs of Budweiser and pissing on the little guy – you guys are actually all on the same side.

  5. ChrisWW1985 2 years ago

    The whole Beer Hawk acquisition passed me by… so now as I sit looking at what I thought was an independently compiled advent calendar from them I wonder what is left behind my final 18 doors. Will day 24 reveal a Bud Light? A Camden Helles?

    Next year Honest Brew will be my calendar of choice, but in the next 12 months (as the world settles under the increased mass that is AB Inbev post SABMiller takeover – my indy radar is going to need some fine tuning as it seems that now it isn’t even breweries I need to be aware of, but the store fronts that sell me the beer.

    • R.g. white 2 years ago

      Wow exact same thoughts flashed through my mind as I read this, being fairly new to the obsession of craft despite dipping several toes for a number of years I too thought that my amazing gift was in support of indy brewers via the medium of a supportive outlet. I am aware of the big boys masquerading their takeovers as true craft to muscle in. I just didn’t realise to what extent this was happening and what clever business techniques were being implemented ! Is nothing sacred?

      • ChrisWW1985 2 years ago

        I guess as the UK doesn’t have the 3 tier system that allows AB Inbev to buy up distributors retailer outlets are the only viable way to steer consumers into the monolithic iceberg.

      • Brody 2 years ago

        Thanks for taking the time to read the letter and comment.

    • Brody 2 years ago

      Hi Chris, thanks for commenting. It’s not difficult to understand why the acquisition passed you by. Beer Hawk rarely mention the fact that they are an Ab InBev brand in disguise. We’re glad that we could help raise awareness. Ultimately it’s beer lovers’ right to purchase from whoever they want, we just want them to be aware of who exactly that is.

      • GF1982 2 years ago

        Just seen this – not quite sure how often you’d expect a brand to mention who they’re owned by, but they definitely did a blog post and loads of stuff on Twitter when they got bought out a few months ago.

        Hardly much of a disguise!

        • Brody 2 years ago

          The fact that so many consumers aren’t aware that they are essentially buying from the largest brewer in the world as opposed to an independent retailer highlights the lack of transparency. If a blog post stating that “We’ve hooked up with AB InBev” and a couple of tweets are adequate for you to make an informed decision that’s great. Others may disagree.

  6. Simon Greenwood 2 years ago

    How does Beer Hawk treat independent brewers though – lower wholesale rates, larger volume to supply, that sort of thing? Playing devil’s advocate for a minute, is it a problem if it gets more independent beer into people’s hands and the brewer isn’t being pressurised to increase capacity or contract brew to supply them as with say, supermarkets or Wetherspoons.

    • Brody 2 years ago

      Cheers for commenting Simon.

      You raise a good point, but ultimately if massive companies like Blandy continue along the same path of aggressive acquisition, then how will the independent landscape look in a couple of years?

      There’s a clear reluctance on the part of Beer Hawk to reveal that they are owned by Blandy, yet they are willing to have Blandy’s products masquerade as craft alongside those of independent retailers. We don’t want to see craft beer homogenised, watered down and stripped of its true identity. We want a vibrant and sustainable marketplace shaped by independent producers and customers, not pretenders.

      We’re pledging to support independents and try to get their beers into as many peoples hands as possible.

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