London’s Meantime Brewing has always struck me as a forward thinking organization. Even before I met brewer-founder Alastair Hook at the company’s Old Brewery in Greenwich – which is not to say their old brewery, out of which they were in the process of moving, but their then-new Old Brewery brewpub-restaurant – last year, I could tell this wasn’t your average British brewery. For starters, there were the bottles, sleek and obviously designed with restaurant sales at least somewhat in mind, and then the fact they brewed – gasp! – lagers, as well as cask and filtered ales.
Once I met and had the opportunity to chat at length with Hook, I became even more convinced. Here was an English brewer who recognizes the value in cask-conditioned ale, but also – sorry CAMRA – understands that there is beer life beyond the cask, including keg and bottled brews. And now, according to this press release, Hook & company have decided that in addition to brewing fine ales and lagers, it might not be such a bad idea to sell them, too.
(If you’re too lazy to click through to the announcement, it’s about Meantime having hired as their new CEO an ex-SABMiller marketing guy named Nick Miller. Miller, as Martyn Cornell explains over here, is the man responsible for the incredible success experienced in the U.K. of late by the Italian lager, Peroni, which Cornell reports has grown 29% in the twelve month period ending in April, 2010.)
I fear this appointment will send many in England to the barricades, fearful of “big brewery creep” in the craft sector, but I can’t help but feel it is a fine and intelligent move on Meantime’s part. Hook has never wanted his beers to languish as niche brands, and frankly most of them are far too good to be consigned to such a fate. Miller knows how to sell beer, even unremarkable, image-driven beer like Peroni, and seems to believe in the brand. The fit would appear ideal.