When we made our predictions in early January as to the year ahead in beer one of the safest bets was that there would be more brewery buy-outs and takeovers. The hard part was guessing which breweries it would be, sure we threw some names around but one name that we didn’t consider was Dark Star. So it was with considerable surprise that we heard the news on Tuesday morning that Dark Star Brewery had been purchased in full by Fullers.
As I write it is a little over 24 hours since the news broke so it is still very early days and it won’t be for months and even years until we see the full effects of the sale. At this point though here are some early thoughts and reflections.
Firstly congratulations to anyone at Dark Star involved in the sale. Building a business is hard work, especially building a business to the stage that it is an attractive purchase target. Making the decision to sell can’t be easy at all but really who amongst us wouldn’t want to be rewarded for years of hard work, perseverance and no doubt taking a risk or three.
On the flipside our thoughts are with anyone who might potentially be made redundant as a result of the sale, The coming together of companies (even if the brand is to be kept) brings that beloved business word ‘synergy’ into play so it seems only natural that there will be job losses.
What could it mean for the beer? Will we see Hophead available as a fixture in Fullers Pub’s throughout the South East? Off the top of my head I can’t think of a Fullers beer that really compares to it (the closet being the just saved Chiswick maybe) so having Hophead in the range is great for Fullers. I for one would love to know that if I fancied a pint of Hophead I would just need to visit the closest Fullers pub . Of course the worry is that there will be a push to drive down production costs so the recipe is tweaked with over time and the beer begins to change. Well call me naïve or stupid but I am going to trust Fullers not to mess with Hophead, what benefit is there to altering the beer and brand that they presumably spent a considerable amount of cash acquiring?
To my eyes Fullers also seem to have a genuine interest in supporting the ‘craft’ and cask elements of the beer industry and do a lot more than many other breweries to bring the two together. I have fond memories of the Fullers Cask bar at last years London Craft Beer Festival not only for the chance to try their rare releases on cask but also the collabs they did with the likes of Marble and Moor. The Fullers and Friends release late last year was another genuinely interesting and exciting idea showing that Fullers are happy to cross boundaries between the traditional and more modern world of beer. The cynics out there might say sure they are interested in these events and collaborations, it is just another market to tap into but really why not give them the benefit of the doubt? If it really was all about the money for Fullers then long ago they would have packed the brewery off to an industrial estate in the back of beyond and sold the lovely riverside Brewery to developers.
So at this very early stage I am cautiously optimistic. Dark Star has been putting out some great specials and seasonal releases lately and Fullers are making the right noises about this continuing under their ownership. The thought of Hophead becoming more available is, to a Hophead lover like myself, no bad thing either. All we can do now is watch this space, I am sure this topic will be one we return to over the coming months.
Roosters Twenty Fifth Anniversary Pale Ale 4.3%
Last week we featured three unsung breweries that we feel don’t always get the attention they deserve and Roosters easily could have featured. One of the originators of pale ‘n’ hoppy beers in the UK Roosters are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year and we are more than happy to toast their succes with a can of this dry, fruity pale.
Magic Rock Dancing Bear 4.5%
Just last week I was thinking Lager doesn’t feature enough in our new releases and then as if some beer fairy had heard me along comes Dancing Bear. Brewed in the Germanic tradition it is clean, crisp and more refreshing than a cold shower.
Three Kings Silver Darling 5.6%
Quite possibly the classiest beer to ever be packaged in a brown paper bag. We definitely wouldn’t recommend drinking Silver Darling straight from the bottle on a park bench. Instead pour this Cascade hopped beer into your favourite glass and savour the piney, woody, loveliness of this Pale Ale.