London Fields Brewery closed and put on market by Carlsberg

Pic: Kake L Pugh

Loss-making London Fields Brewery was shut down last week by owners Carlsberg Marstons after they decided to try and sell the brand.

The Hackney-based brewery announced on December 8 that they were closing their taproom and e-commerce platform and pausing onsite brewing with immediate effect while they seek a new owner.

Located under the railway archways near London Fields, the brewery was founded during the London Riots in 2011 by ex-cocaine smuggler Julian de Vere Whiteway-Wilkinson.

In 2017, after Whiteway was charged with several counts of tax evasion, the brewery was acquired by Carlsberg in a joint venture with Brooklyn Brewery at a cost of £4m.

At the time of the incorporation, the brewery was already running at an operating loss of £161k according to the company’s full account for that year. During 2019, it made a loss of over £1m.

The brewery’s complex financial situation was certainly worsened by the pandemic. Last year, sales of their core beers Hackney Hopster, 3 Weiss Monkeys and Broadway Boss have further plummeted 31.7 per cent, 95.6 per cent and 50.9 per cent respectively – as reported by NielsenIQ.

In a statement released to Eastlondonlines, Carlsberg’s CEO Paul Davies said: “This decision in no way reflects upon the hard work and dedication that has been put into building LFB since we purchased the brewery in 2017. But after several months of careful review, it is clear that growing LFB will require significant time, resource and marketing investment.”

According to the company’s full account in 2017, management had repeatedly tried to “overhaul the brewery’s inherited financial systems,” some of them presenting control weaknesses and poor stock management.

Their beers were mainly distributed in pubs around London, in some Morrisons stores across the country and on Ocado.

The brewery is rated 3.45/5 on Untappd, one of the most popular apps to review craft beer and breweries. According to an independent study from 2019, the average score is 3.71.

The London craft beer market is highly competitive as demonstrated by the increasing amount of craft breweries being bought by multinational corporations – in recent years, Meantime is now owned by Asahi, Camden Brewery, now part of AB InBev and Beveartown, partly owned by Heineken.

Carlsberg has now entered a period of consultation with the team at London Fields Brewery. “We understand this news will be devastating to the team and disappointing to many others, but we cannot shy away from making the difficult choices that we believe are crucial to investing in scaling the right brands for the future.” Carlsberg’s CEO said.

“This does not mean that LFB cannot have a bright future as a craft brewer outside of CMBC.” Davies added.

“As it may take some months to find the right buyer, we will close the taproom and stop brewing immediately. Our brewing partner Cameron’s will continue to brew LFB in the usual manner to meet existing on-trade customers supply until we finalise a sale.”

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