UK: Battle for London brewpub market heats up

With last week’s soft opening of GooseIsland’s first European brewpub in London’s district Shoreditch the battle for prestigious brewpub locations in UK’s capital has intensified. It’s already the second attempt to establish a brewpub of the flagship brand of ABInBev’s craft beer division (formerly called High End Beer Division) in London.

The so called Goose IslandVintage Ale House, which closed in May, had no brewing on site and only operated for two years in Balham in the south of London. Ken Stout, international president of Goose Island Beer Co. said in a statement in May, that scaling up operations at the new site in Shoreditch was the main reason for the closure. “We are scaling up our operations and opening our brand new brewpub in the heart of Shoreditch, where we’ll be living out our dream of brewing on-site,” said Stout. “Our team will be making small batch beers right in front of your eyes, and serving-up pints from our classic and award-winning range too.”

The new brewpub in the London’s east end has a 5hl brew kit located behind at glass window at the back of the venue and serves twelve keg and two cask beers at the bar. It follow’s AB InBev’s strategy to open strategically located Goose Island brewpubs in major cities of the world to support the international expansion of one of the oldest U.S. craft beer brands. (inside.beer, 5.12.2016)

Goose Island has opened in the last years brewpubs in Sao Paolo, Brazil; Monterrey, Mexico; Toronto, Canada; Seoul, South Korea and another one is scheduled to open soon in Melbourne, Australia. “We are opening these places because we want to be part of the existing or emerging beer scene and culture in those cities, “ Stout said. “If we do not move quickly and establish ourselves as part of the beer culture, others will beat us to it.”

AB InBev also owns Camden Town Brewery in London, which was purchased by the world’s leading brewing group at the end of 2015 and which opened last year a new £30 million ($39m) facility at Navigation Park in the north of Greater London/UK. (inside.beer, 7.8.2017)

Other brewpubs and breweries in London belonging to international brewing groups include Meantime Brewing Co., which was acquired by SABMiller in May 2015. Following the sale of SABMiller to AB InBev, Meantime was handed over to Japanese brewer Asahi in April 2016. (inside.beer, 11.10.2016).

London Fields Brewery was acquired by Carlsberg  in July 2017 (inside.beer, 3.7.2017). Heineken bought a minority share in Brixton Brewery in November 2017 (inside.beer, 28.11.2017) and Beavertown in June 2018 (inside.beer, 26.5.2018). This year Kirin’s Australian subsidiary Lion Brewing bought Fourpure Brewing, basedBin Bermondsey, South East London. (inside.beer, 9.7.2018) After a successful test with a pop-up bar in the last UK summer in Elephant and Castle, Kirin-owned Australian brand Little Creatures is expected to follow suit with its own brewpub in King’s Cross by the end of the year.

Last but not least to mention is BrewDog, the Scottish craft brewing company, which also opened a brewpub in downtown London in May. The facility is equipped with a 10 hl brew kit and serves 25 different craft beers on tap.

Not right a brewpub but a craft beer bar has opened not far from Goose Island’s new location in the Shoreditch district three weeks ago on October 19th. It is a bar of Danish cult craft brewer Mikkeller in collaboration with pop singer Rick Astley. The singer who became popular in 1987 with the international No. 1 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” brewed already last year a “fruity pilsner lager” beer together with Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, co-founder and CEO of Mikkeller. (inside.beer, 3.1.2017)

“We have finally found a fantastic location in the Shoreditch district that suits us perfectly,” said Mikkeler. “Meanwhile, we have been fortunate to get to know Rick Astley and his [Danish] wife Lene Bausager Astley [who is also his manager], so now we have also found the perfect partners.” The bar is unique in its design as it is designed by Danish creative agency Femmes Régionales which has already designed a number of Mikkellers bars.

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