There are some hurt feelings around today. Some people will say some things they will regret, tears will be shed and spats will be had. I am of course talking about the news that Asahi has taken 100% ownership of the Melbourne craft beer institution, Mountain Goat. It is not the first craft brewery to now have either partly sold or full ownership be sold to ‘Big Beer’. In recent weeks Lagunitas has sold a 50% stake to Heineken and AB InBev has made another acquisition in LA Golden Road Brewing. But I think it’s the Mountain Goat sale that has most people rattled and made people turn on what is a most loved brewery and i’ll tell you why: Brand Loyalty, more specifically craft beer brand royalty.
Personally, when I first heard this I thought ‘well, that’s the end of Mountain Goat, never drinking it again’ but straight after that I thought again, ‘ hang on, how is it going to taste any different from today to tomorrow?’ The answer? It won’t. So what changed? Very simply, perception. It then got me thinking about brand loyalty, perception, business and what a serious double edged sword it can be.
For the sake of this exercise I’m going to use Mountain Goat as I see it as my best frame of reference. Brand loyalty will create any business a loyal army of followers, people that will invest themselves in the brand, their ideas, their philosophy and most importantly, their product. And Mountain Goat have managed to do this for 15 years, creating some fiercely loyal followers. Their philosophy? Independent, ‘untamed’, craft beer. You know what’s not ‘independent. untamed craft beer’? Selling to Asahi. To this extent, people have a right to feel jaded about this recent deal. Such an old craft institution like Mountain Goat selling to big business is a hard blow to take for what is essentially one of the original, family owned brewers in Victoria. People have a right to be unhappy.
An important thing to remember though is that Mountain Goat, along with the other high profile breweries, are a business. Dave and Cam have worked hard for decades to get to where they are and are now reaping the rewards of their success. And you know what? That isn’t a bad thing!
So lets not be the bitchy exes of the craft beer relationship. Be happy for their success and when you see them in the street, don’t ignore them, ask them how they are and what they’re doing, are they seeing anyone? Also comment on how great they’re looking… Let’s face it, Asahi have been brewing the vast majority of the Mountain Goat stable for 3 years now and there has been no change in quality. It may be naive to think it won’t change now but Mountain Goat will always be Mountain Goat, a Melbourne craft beer Mecca and nothing will change that.