Cantillon: Brewers will have to be crafty to succeed

Brooklyn Brewery ships 252,000 barrels a year so there is clearly room for expansion

As all good trend-watchers will know, Brooklyn, the founding well of hipsterdom, is home to one of the ultimate craft beers: Brooklyn Lager.

The totemic brewery is known for long-resisting the blandishments of Wall Street investors attracted by its earnings potential. And what an earnings potential it is.

When the Colorado brewer behind another famous craft beer, Dale's Pale Ale, was sold, it was valued at as much as 20 times its 12-month earnings. This contrasts lip-smackingly well with Budweiser and Heineken at 13.4 and 12.5 times respectively. The numbers will be enviously eyed by Ireland's burgeoning craft beer industry, which is still, despite huge growth, in its nascency.

A “craft beer”, imbibed and not swallowed by the ever-growing legion of flat-cap wearing adherents, is defined by the US Brewers’ Association as a company that produces fewer than six million barrels a year.


Brooklyn Brewery ships 252,000 a year so there is clearly room for expansion, a move it has avoided until now. In the offing is investment from Wall Street to underpin plans to build a new brewery costing €150 million.

As the Noah Baumbach/Ben Stiller film While We're Young points out, hipsterdom is about being seen to be on the outside while trying to make it on the inside, preferably in the creative fields.

However, there are dangers to the approach. When Anheuser-Busch swallowed, sorry, imbibed, Oregon's 10 Barrel Brewing last year, it provoked an angry backlash. Similar attempts to marry big and small beer can't be far away in Ireland, and lessons will have been learned.

With Smithwicks, owned by Diageo, in its recent TV ad box-ticking all the trappings of hipsterdom – flat cap, brogues, high nelly, slightly-too-tight tweed jacket and skinny trousers – it is clear some of the local giants have already been getting in on the craft beer act from the outside. The trick for the big beer companies and the hipster microbreweries will be to maintain their independent image while benefiting from the hard cash that comes from serious corporate investment.

Good luck to them: Cantillon generally sticks to a pint of plain and a ball of malt.