The acquisition – marking SABMiller’s entry into the UK craft beer market – was made for an undisclosed sum. The deal will give the drinks giant a position in the fastest-growing segment of the UK beer market and was said to complement its imported premium lagers such as Peroni, Nastro Azzurro and Pilsner Urquell.
SABMiller Europe md Sue Clark said Meantime had helped to pioneer the modern craft beer market in the UK by brewing an outstanding range of beers across a range of styles. “At SABMiller, we love local variety and carefully nurture our 200 local and heritage beers,” said Clark.
‘200 local and heritage beers’
“Meantime, born in a city with a rich beer heritage, will be a special new addition to the SABMiller family.”
The craft brewer’s expertise will boost SABMiller’s strategy to develop beers that appeal to more people, including women, and which can be attractive alternatives to wine and spirits, she added.
Meantime ceo Nick Miller is to remain in place, as the firm aimed to grow sales of the craft brewer’s beers at home and in European markets.
Miller said the deal was proof of the bigger firm’s commitment to the longevity of craft beer in the UK. “SABMiller shares our passion for putting great beer first and making, selling and marketing it responsibly to beer aficionados worldwide,” he added.
“The team at SABMiller have stressed how important our culture is to our success to date, and have a strong track record in retaining the special identities and heritage of the local businesses they've bought in the past.”
Outpacing the UK beer market
One of the UK’s top-performing craft breweries, Meantime’s beer sales rose by 58% last year, outpacing the UK beer market’s 1% growth. Its range included: London Pale Ale, London Lager, Yakima Red, Pilsner, India Pale Ale and London Porter. London Pale Ale and London Lager together account for around 70% of total volumes.
Meantime is to open a pilot brewery, which will become a centre for SABMiller’s European innovation and new product development.
The acquisition included Meantime’s retail sites, including the Tasting Rooms and the brewery shop in Greenwich, the Greenwich Union pub and the pop-up Beerbox pub. The deal, which is expected to be completed early next month, also included the Brewery Fresh tank beer concept, now available in 26 London pubs.
The craft brewery was founded in Greenwich 15 years ago. Its beers are stocked in more than 900 on-trade outlets and retailers including Waitrose, Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer.
Meanwhile, in March Molson Coors invested £2M in a new facility to expand production for the Franciscan Well craft brewery in Cork, Ireland. A former warehouse at Cork docks is being converted into the plant, which will produce lagers, ales, stouts and wheat beer.
What is a craft brewery?
“A microbrewery or craft brewery is a brewery that produces a small amount of beer. Exact definitions vary, but the terms are typically applied to breweries that are much smaller than large-scale corporate breweries and are independently owned. Such breweries are generally characterized by their emphasis on quality, flavour and brewing technique.”
Source: The Oxford Companion to Beer