Beavertown axed by Hop Burns & Black after Heineken deal

Hop Burns & Black has removed Beavertown beers from its shelves despite two of the brewer’s brands accounting for 8% of its turnover from beer.

The beer retailer, which has two stores in south east London, decided to delist the brands after Beavertown announced it had sold a stake to Heineken for £40 million. Co-owner Jen Ferguson told DRN: “They were good sellers and two of Beavertown’s brands – Neck Oil and Gamma Ray – have been up in our top five since the day we started. Before Beavertown’s sale to Heineken they accounted for 8% of our total beer turnover, so it equated to a big chunk and therefore it was a big decision for us to make.

“But it is part of our ethos. We always set out to celebrate independent beer producers, and obviously we are independent ourselves, so it was important to us to stick to our guns. We have ceased stocking a number of different breweries’ beers for this very reason in the past so we couldn’t be hypocrites.”

Bottle shops and their customers generally favour beers from independent craft breweries but they also fear that, when craft beer brands are acquired by the big producers, they will become more widely available and at a cheaper price, driving down the overall premium status of craft beer.

Ferguson said that Hop Burns & Black generally tends to avoid stocking beers listed by supermarkets.

She said: “As a retailer of beers from independent breweries we do look at the big producers such as AB-Inbev and Heineken as threats to our business and I think independent retailers should be a bit wiser about how they will operate in years to come.

“We much prefer to offer our customers a premium selection they won’t find at Tesco or Sainsbury’s. Also, as a small independent retailer, it is almost impossible for us to get near most supermarkets’ pricing due to their volume discounts and practice of loss-leading with alcohol products.

“Beavertown had listed in Waitrose a few weeks before the Heineken announcement and we decided to suck it and see as to what the impact might be for us. We didn’t have a Waitrose branch near our store at that time and were assured by our Beavertown reps that Waitrose would not be charging ridiculously low prices, as might have been the case with Tesco, for example.”

She also noted that the space on shelf left by the removal of Beavertown brands has been easy to fill.

“Without Beavertown on shelf we were able to set up talks with some local brewers and we have been able to do a lot more volume of these alternative beers from the likes of Brick Brewery in Peckham and Gypsy Hill brewery, also in south east London. We have worked with these breweries to get a good deal to match the prices we charged for Beavertown’s beers and consequently we haven’t noticed any drop in sales.”

In May this year, Hop Burns & Black opened its second branch, in Deptford, following the success of the original store, which opened in Peckham Rye in 2014 and stocks more than 350 global craft beers.

Related articles: