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Long-standing figures leave breweries bought by Breal

Private equity firm Keystone Brewing Group, formerly known as Breal Group, has upped its PR efforts in a bid to control its reputation with the beer industry as key figures depart.

Interviews with press were proffered with its CEO of brewing operations Mark Williams earlier this week in an attempt to regain interest in company’s future moves, but the reasons behind its rebranding and controlled PR have largely been rumoured to be acting as a smokescreen to hide other news coming to light elsewhere.

A source close to the scene highlighted that “Breal is doing everything it can to hide the fact that everyone is jumping ship and all of these breweries are losing their identities because this is about money, not beer or people or even respecting the integrity of the brewery or its brands. These are all just assets that will be dumped further down the road”.

One example can be seen from Aaron Taubman who was brewing at Warwickshire’s Purity for the past a decade, has left the business and joined Woodforde’s Brewery in Norfolk.

Taubman, who studied brewing at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago has won five Great American Beer Festival medals for his beers and was an integral part of Purity and its brewing skillset.

Also leaving a brewing business recently bought by Breal’s Keystone Brewing Group, Black Sheep Brewery’s CEO Charlene Lyons has quietly departed the Yorkshire-based business after nearly a decade at the helm, a move that will see her succeeded by Williams of Keystone.

Breal Group, which has historically worked with the steel and aviation sectors and is based in London’s Cavendish Square, is headed up by Brent Osborne and Alan McLaren who both founded the business in 2013 using the beginning initials of each of their names. Osborne is also CEO of a commercial finance business he eponymously named Brent which has been in operation for just over six years. Since 2000, Osborne has been a director of 25 companies, the current directorship having a combined turnover of approximately £154 million and a combined valuation of £282 million.

Sources outlined that, when it comes to business deals, it is Osborne who conducts most of them and “doesn’t negotiate” while McLaren is “largely silent” and Williams is “being offered as the public face to the beer trade, but is not the key decision-maker”.

Osborne, who has written a self-published “adult novel” called The Fascination under the pen name Bob Renterson, invites readers to “enter the seedy and erotically charged world of money, power, greed and addiction” and has a plotline where “bankers are finally getting what’s been coming to them”.

Osborne and McLaren’s Breal Group, which has purchased Masham-based Black Sheep Brewing, London’s Brick Brewery and Brew by Numbers and Warwickshire’s Purity Brewing in the past year, has said it will “act as a unifier for each brewery” despite news of its London breweries Brick and Brew By Numbers (BBNo) closing down, with staff being laid off and brew kits being moved to Black Sheep’s site.

In a raft of communications this week, the drinks business has reached out to the private equity firm’s communications team and asked who is still brewing at Purity and how many people have left or been let go from each of the breweries that have been bought as well as which breweries the company is eyeing for takeover next.

The response has been “we aren’t looking to stay silent on any of these matters” but nor has the communications team met deadlines for comment with the business being evasive unless interviews are conducted on its own terms with Williams only being offered as a spokesperson.

Williams is due to be meeting press at Purity Brewery in an attempt to “build relationships” soon and will be present at the north’s hospitality event NRB Manchester in March to additionally forge bonds with the trade, however one industry source warned this is “simply a diversion tactic to court anyone from seeing what is unfolding elsewhere”.

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