Last night we opened a bottle of Emerson’s APA, to commemorate the US Election and a turning point in recent NZ brewing history.
The beerigentsia are all abuzz with the news of Emerson’s sale to the Lion behemoth and its Japanese parent. You would have thought that Richard Emerson had been abducted or joined a cult. It may just turn out that the brewery was an orphan, and has now been adopted. (Only time will tell how strict its new parents are.) It has happened before, with Lion’s purchase of the Mac’s brand. That history has a direct link to the current misgivings.
Many smaller producers, and some consumers resent the often cutthroat tactics used in the industry to reduce competition and obfuscate the source, ingredients, and even the historical style of products. They have every right to sound the alarm, pointing out deception and mis-education in the marketplace. We continue to support the goal of educated consumers choosing whichever products suit their palate.
As of now, there is no reason to doubt Richard’s word that nothing will change product wise. If they are smart, Lion will help Richard reduce his costs both in supply and distribution, and leave the part in the middle alone. As a consumer, we welcome the possibility of having those great beers widely available at a lower cost. Frankly flavoursome beer doesn’t need to be expensive, elitist, and cultish.
But, expensive, elitist, cultish beers have their place and market. As some brands become more mainstream, they may not fit in that model anymore. It’s just business. We don’t expect niche bars to serve products that are widely available, irrespective of the politics.
Emerson’s predates the recent growth of the New Zealand craft beer movement. While they have benefited from the passion for small producers, there is no doubt in our minds that the company was meant to be a business rather than merely a lifestyle. When suitors come along and their offer makes business sense, how many of us could say no? Why should we?
The number of producers is growing faster than the taps or shelf space. Looking forward this consolidation trend will continue. The market will require more creativity and efficiency from small producers to stay in the game. If the field stays level, consumers will benefit.