Cloudwater Brew Co. apologises for pulling out of Beavertown’s festival over Heineken deal

Manchester-based craft brewery Cloudwater has apologised to people who bought tickets to Beavertown’s upcoming festival after it cancelled its scheduled appearance over the London brewer’s recent deal with Heineken.

Cloudwater Brew Co. has apologised for pulling out of the Beavertown event. DIPA (Photo: Cloudwater)

Manchester’s Cloudwater Brew Co. wrote on Twitter that the team was planning to boycott beavertown’s upcoming festival, Beavertown Extravaganza, last week.

It was in reaction to a blog post on the North London brewer Beavertown’s website, explaining it had sold a minority stake of the business to Heineken for £40 million after months of speculation in the beer world.

Mergermarket reported that the deal would mimic its investment in south London brewery Brixton, which saw it take a 49% stake in the business to fund a move to a larger site.

A number of brewers had pledged to stop selling Beavertwon products at their own venues, saying that intervention by a large global beer manufacturer such as Heineken would pose a threat to independent businesses in the sector.

The brewery had researched other investment options, such as crowdfunding or private equity, but these were dismissed as “unsuitable.”

Cloudwater was recently ranked as one of the world’s top craft breweries in beer-valuation website Ratebeer’s annual survey of its users.

While dozens of retailers and producers, including the $1 billion-valued brewery Brewdog, said they intended to boycott Beavertown Extravaganza, customers were unhappy with their actions, taking to Twitter to express their disappointment.

“I’m personally very disappointed with the breweries pulling out,” said video blogger HopZine.

“Only people you are actually effecting are the people that bought tickets, booked trains and hotels like myself.”

Responding to the initial backlash from ticket-holders, Cloudwater said: “If we’d known then what we know now, we wouldn’t have signed up for this year in the first place.”

Then on Monday 25 June, the Manchester brewer published a blog post detailing the reasons its executives felt strongly enough to cancel its Beavertown booking.

“We’re all deeply sorry that we withdrew from Beavertown’s Extravaganza.” Cloudwater’s most recent post said.

“If we had known early this year that Beavertown was working on a minority sale to Heineken, the world’s second biggest beer company behind AB InBev, we’d have pulled out months ago.

“It is a source of deep frustration that leaves us feeling a little used that around the time tickets were released for sale, a deal was likely already being drawn up with Heineken.”

Cloudwater linked to a number of reports to justify their position, including a legal case Heineken lost against Greece’s Hellenic Competition Commission in 2017 where the firm was found to be in breach of Greek and EU competition law having abused its “dominant position” for nearly two decades.

Cloudwater also cited several reports from international publications which implied cases of widespread sexual abuse and poor working conditions for overseas staff.

“Not all bigger breweries are the same, and not all breweries that seek corporate investment do so at the expense of their wider independence,” it added.

“Some big breweries appear to operate with the principles we hold dear in modern beer, regardless of their age, reach, or size, whilst other big breweries throw their weight around and engage in tactics behind the scenes against modern breweries’ values and existence.”

A spokesperson for Heineken told the drinks business: there were “two things we’d like to call out,” regarding Cloudwater’s statement.

“1) as you know last week Heineken took a minority stake in Beavertown supporting them in realising their dreams and full potential,” it said. “Following this transaction, Beavertown is still an independent brewer, 100% focused on bringing great beers to U.K. consumers.

“2) In its statement Cloudwater is referring to various allegations made in a recent Dutch book on Heineken’s business in Africa. The situation in Africa is much more nuanced than the writer of the book wants to make you believe.

“When you operate in 24 countries in Africa, and you have been active on the continent for over 100 years, you face challenges from time to time.

“Most important for us is that if we make mistakes, we correct them, learn from them and prevent them from happening in the future. We are very much focused on that, in the business (locally and at head office) and in dialogue with our stakeholders.”

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