When the buyout of Panhead Custom Ales was announced in May, I wasn’t necessarily surprised, but I was very interested to see how this news was going to be taken by the general beer community.
While not an Australian business, Panhead Custom Ales have an excellent reputation and many loyal fans on this side of the Tasman Sea and the news of their sale to the Lion Group aka Kirin Holdings Company Limited is the biggest since Mountain Goat were bought out by Asahi in late 2015.
When these corporate buyouts happen there’s usually an inordinate amount of outrage associated with them. Some people will be outraged that a company who makes a product that they like has made a decision they don’t agree with, while an equal number of people will be outraged at the first group for being outraged. It's outrageous.
The latter group generally stand by the notion that as long as the beer doesn’t change it doesn’t matter who owns it; if the beer still tastes as good as it did before then there’s no reason to be upset. But taste is not the only thing that influences what goes in your glass – there are obvious factors of price, branding and availability to consider. Values and beliefs also play a significant role in shaping individual purchasing decisions.
Take the recent media interest in the sale of milk in Australian supermarkets. There has been a groundswell of community support to boycott the $1/litre milk offered by the big supermarkets because of the perceived impacts it’s having on dairy farmers through undervaluing of the price of milk. This has nothing to do with taste, value or availability; it’s a conscious decision being made by individual consumers who want to feel like they’re doing their bit for the little guy.
But of course milk is nothing like beer and it’s not as if any of the major beer companies are alleged to have been engaged in deceptive and misleading conduct in relation to the milk industry. Especially where the multinational had lost significant market share to a smaller, more innovative company. That kind of behaviour just wouldn’t happen in the beer industry. Surely.
Personally, I’d be lying if I said my ideals trump taste, price and availability every time. For instance, while I would no longer go out of my way to purchase Mountain Goat or even the Constellation Brands-owned Ballast Point, if I found myself at Dan Murphy’s I would probably still pick up the newest Mountain Goat Rare Breed or Sculpin IPA because I know they’re high quality beers.
But 9 times out of 10, I’m reaching for the independently owned beers because I’ve already lived in a world where one or two companies produce every single beer in a bar or bottleshop. And that’s not a world I’m particularly keen to reinhabit*.
*I won’t bother writing why when this article already exists: