Sightlines — St. Austell Brewery purchases Bath Ales

Michael Kiser

THE GIST
Today in the UK, regional, family owned brewer St. Austell who are based in Cornwall have announced the outright purchase of fellow West Country brewer Bath Ales for an undisclosed sum. The Bath Ales Brewery is situated between the southwest towns of Bath and Bristol and as well as a brewery its portfolio includes an estate of 11 pubs plus its own self-style craft beer brand ‘Beerd’.

WHY IT MATTERS
The consolidation of regional brewers within the UK is nothing new but this move from St. Austell has come as a little bit of a surprise. There’s a real contrast in the UK between the traditional, regional brewers and how they are adapting to a rapidly shifting marketplace. Some, such as Adnams in Southwold, East Anglia are successfully updating their image for a new breed of drinker where some such as Harvey’s in Sussex are simply getting on with what they’ve always done – brew great beer.

Bath Ales attempt to crack a younger, emerging market was to create its self styled sub-brand ‘Beerd’, which to me always felt a little contrived. However, it’s traditional offerings such as Gem, its best bitter have always proved to be solid and reliable, despite possibly being seen as a little ‘old-hat’ by the emerging market.

It’ll be interesting to see St. Austell’s motive for making this purchase. Are they simply looking to build on the existing pub estate and secure some safe taps around the UK or is its long term plan to modernize the Bath Ales brand in order to provide a distinctively different beer offering to their own?  

— MATTHEW CURTIS