If you’ve landed here you’re likely aware that we have been acquired by Lion in a deal that sees 100% of ownership transfer to our new friends in Australia. You’re also probably expecting “business as usual", “nothing will change”, “more of the same”. Whilst the beer and the culture and the people will be the same (Rob and Sophie will still be on the road pouring beers, Alice and Andy will still be answering phones and making sure beer gets to our customers on time), we truly hope that you will see some change, otherwise why would we bother?
When Tom and I started Fourpure we had a really simple idea in mind - we wanted to brew modern craft beers and share them with everyone. We love beer, we love to innovate and it has always been important that we take beer lovers on a journey of discovery. As such, we’re true believers that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It’s there on our beers, we talk about it on our website and shout about it at events across the country and the globe – we are ‘Inspired by Adventure’.
But the first step of any journey is rarely to leap off a mountain – the first beer on a craft beer journey is unlikely to be 12% and imperial or barrel fermented and sour. Not only do we want to push the boundaries of flavour and experience, we also want beer drinkers to share the beers that we first discovered through our travels, to offer a range of beers that can be enjoyed as a simple, joyful respite or an exciting first foray.
To achieve the standards of quality and consistency that we set for ourselves, to learn and innovate and grow, we have had to continuously invest. One thing people will tell you about running a brewery is that it’s expensive and challenging, that it will take up a lot of your time, and that it requires a lot of people power. Come to think of it there’s a lot of things people will tell you about running a brewery. We’ve now reached a point where if we want to reach more people and get them drinking good beer, then we need more resources, equipment, and amazing people.
It has been a lengthy process to get us to this point, we’ve spoken to a broad range of investors and been transparent about our ambition to our team and the industry. Private equity, bank debt, and crowdfunding are all things we worked really hard on exploring, always knowing Tom and I could not take this journey alone. We wanted the transition to be unambiguous and we both worked to be authentic throughout.
So what are the benefits?
The craft beer industry is now a dominant force that operates on a global stage, yet at times its size and prominence can feel incredibly small and isolated. So many breweries are made up of only a small handful of people brewing and selling and doing their best. Since we’ve grown we’ve added a number of roles that have helped us shape the business but they start to become unique. By taking this next step it means that our team has peers that they can learn from, it means that we have a structure that will allow for growth and progression. It also importantly means that we’ll have the money to invest in capacity, safety, innovation, people, our quality programme, our sensory programme, hospitality, sustainability and many other things that we believe in and care about.
This really was an easy decision in the end. Not only are the people at Lion terribly nice and incredibly positive, they share our vision and believe in us to carry it out. Not to mention a fantastic track record with the likes of Little Creatures. Lion are four people in the UK – they do not have a string of pubs to roll our beer out into, we will still have to win over every new line through the quality of our product. They, like us, choose to do something because it is hard, not because it is easy. They see Fourpure and our beer as a primary focus here in the UK and as their sole production brewing facility we will benefit from all the time, expertise and investment required to succeed, and that means that everything around the brewery will be a little bit easier and a little bit better.
We’ve been investing in our business for five years to create what was London’s largest modern independent craft brewer and if 2018 is anything to go by, we believe we’ve already shown that with growth our beers are only getting better.
Dan & Tom
Q. What’s the value of the transaction?
A. One of the few things we’re not allowed to discuss is the price Lion paid for Fourpure, and we’re sorry we can’t share those kinds of details with you. You will, however, be able to see the results of this investment at our Bermondsey home very soon.
Q. Who are Lion?
A. Lion is an Australian headquartered business that sits within Kirin’s global portfolio. They have a broad spectrum of beer, cider and wine brands with deep experience in brewing and a focus on quality and craftsmanship. Their brands include a significant range of much-loved craft beers from Australia and New Zealand like Little Creatures, White Rabbit, Panhead and Emerson’s. You can also refer to their website www.lionco.com if you would like to explore further.
Q. Why Lion?
A. Put simply, it’s a great business with fantastic people, strong sustainability credentials and a lot of expertise we can learn from. We also think there’s a very good cultural fit and we see a fantastic opportunity to work together to grow both Fourpure and Lion’s suite of craft beers, ciders and fine wines.
Q. You’ve talked previously about investing in London, does this mean you’ll now have to move?
A. The focus in the short to medium term is to continue to enhance our spiritual home, through improvements to safety, operating capacity and our broader sales, marketing and hospitality experience. In the event that the brand grows beyond the capacity in our current site, we will look at alternatives to enable the business to continue to expand.
Q. This is a significant investment in a market where Lion has a very small presence – how will they manage the transition and navigate the local market?
A. In short, with humility. We have a great team of people and Lion are looking to work with them and learn from them. At the same time, the UK is culturally similar to Lion’s home markets and they bring some expertise that will help us, particularly in the Little Creatures hospitality experience. There are great opportunities for both parties to benefit.
Q. What’s the plan with distribution, will more go to export?
A. Our current focus is building growth in the UK market but we have established ourselves as a leading craft brand in Singapore where Lion also has established a presence under their Lion gateway city strategy. We have also made some inroads into Europe. Over time we see opportunities to work together for further export growth but at this stage the focus is on the UK market.
Q. Will beer quality decline through cost cutting?
A. Lion are focused on investment so that we to continue to grow and develop. Safety, quality and reputation are the three pillars that Lion focuses on and they will not be changing anything that would impact on the quality of the products.
Q. Will you brew Lion beers at Fourpure?
A. There are no current plans to do so –we’re focused on maximising capacity to meet growing Fourpure demand.
Q. Will Lion change Fourpure’s branding or the beer itself?
A. The focus is on working together to grow Fourpure alongside Lion’s craft beers (Little Creature’s, Emerson’s, Panhead). Lion is focused on investment so that we to continue to grow and develop. Safety, quality and reputation are the three pillars that Lion focuses on and they will not be changing anything that would impact the branding or the quality of the products.
Q. Aren’t you worried that people will turn away from Fourpure knowing it’s no longer made by an independent brewer?
A. Lion has been part of the craft beer journey in Australia and beyond for a long time now. Chuck Hahn started James Squire with Lion’s support and Lion was a shareholder in Little Creatures very early in the journey. Lion’s craft brewers have created some of Australia’s most loved craft beers from scratch, such as Furphy, White Rabbit, Mad Brewers and Kosciusko.
Where they have acquired brands, such as Little Creatures in 2013, they have fully supported the team’s vision to grow. In the case of Little Creatures, they invested in its spiritual home in Fremantle WA and from there took the brand across Australia, building a second brewery on the east coast in Geelong, Victoria. Little Creatures is now one of the highest selling craft beers (top 3) in Australia, and this success has enabled Lion to take the brand to new markets overseas including the UK with Little Creatures now available in 30 cities globally.
Q. Any redundancies?
A. This deal is all about creating opportunities and continuing Fourpure’s growth well into the future with plans to add 30 people to the Bermondsey team over the coming two years.
Q. Are Dan and Tom still involved? Do they have an exit strategy?
A. The team at Fourpure remains totally focussed on the job and there will be no immediate changes to operations so it’s very much business as usual. Dan Lowe remains CEO with co-founder and brother, Tom Lowe also staying on. Lion has a long track record of working with entrepreneurs, their aim is to let us get on with what we do best, while seeking to give us full access to the benefits of being part of Lion. There’s still a lot of growth and opportunity for us within the business.