This morning news broke that Lion Nathan have acquired 100% of the shares in Emerson’s Brewery. The news has had mixed receptions and I’d probably estimate a 30:70 split between positive:negative. I’m in the 30% and here’s why:
1) Do you know Richard Emerson? Can you imagine him saying ‘okay, let’s dumb down all the beers?’ I’m not claiming to know him well, but I can’t imagine that happening. I don’t know the second or third in command that well either, but I do know many throughout the country – they’re in beer because they love it.
2) It’s not 1999. Craft beer now has a much larger, very verbal following, who will keep an eye on developments. The Macs buy-out was 13 years ago – hell, I was in third form – times have changed people. I would like to think that craft beer could even be profitable (imagine that!) and that Lion bought Emerson’s for a reason.
3) If you boycott Emerson’s products, you are increasing the likelihood of Lion deciding that craft is not profitable and ‘do a Mac’s’. If you continue to support the brewery in its new (slightly altered) incarnation, there is more chance that it won’t change.
4) Making money is not evil. The Emerson’s team worked for two decades to build up an amazing range of delightful beers – they deserve to be rewarded both in praise and money so that they can afford to do things they couldn’t do when they were broke and working ridiculous hours getting the brewery running.
5) An amazing Kiwi brewery now has access to one of the biggest beer distribution networks in the country. There’s a good chance we’ll see Emerson’s bottles in Lion bars and outlets – we may even get taps. This would allow Emerson’s reach into the provinces – and even overseas. I’m sorry, but as someone departing for Australia in a week, I can’t see this as a bad thing.
6) We (by which I mean drinkers and brewers) need to find a way to work in the same world as the big boys. They’re not going away any time soon – they still control at least 80% of the market and even if they are on their way to a slow death, it’s going to be a very long process. They are still, for the near future – at least this way we may see Emerson’s in restaurants.
Lastly, I just like to ask when the Kiwi beer scene became so full of haters and doubters. Have a little faith people. At least give it a couple of months to see how things will turn out before you start running about claiming the sky is falling. You can call me naive all you like, but I’ll still try to see the best of people – even you.