As Huddersfield is my hometown and I love craft beer, nothing made me prouder than the success of Magic Rock Brewing. I was nothing short of ecstatic when they opened their taproom within walking distance of where I worked at the time and a similar distance from where I grew up. I held my work leaving do there, had birthdays there and proudly took a Magic Rock t-shirt with me to America.
Many have reacted negatively to the news that Australian company Lion have purchased a 100% stake in the company, complaining that “selling out” will always lead to a drop in quality. I’ve listened to the for and against arguments about these kinds of purchases before many times and can see the valid points on both sides. I’d never, for instance, bother buying a bottle of Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA anymore but I visited one of their actual taprooms in San Diego and found a treasure trove of exciting, adventurous beers still being made and served there.
I understand companies want to grow and not stay still. I can comprehend how big a deal it would be for them to have cans of their main brews sold on the shelves of big stores and I know that I’m not the target audience for that kind of thing. Breweries can make mass produced boring beers for the mainstream and still make beautiful craft beers for the fans.
However, there is a more troubling fact in this corporate take over. One that has lead me to unfollow Magic Rock on all social media, to give my t-shirt away and instruct the current custodian of my Magic Rock glassware to recyle it instead of holding it for my next visit.
Lion is wholly owned by Japanese brewer Kirin and last year Amnesty International accussed them of making donations to the military in Myanmar at the height of brutal ethnic cleansing. Kirin’s response was to deny the donations were for the military, something proven false by online statements from Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
I love to see people from my hometown do well and I’ve always been proud of Magic Rock’s success. When the news was first announced I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt but when I found out about the Kirin/Myanmar connection, things took on a different shade. Sure, international companies have to adapt to local customs in their different markets and sometimes that does involve politcial contributions which is always shady but forgiveable. However, financially supporting rape, torture, genocide and displacement is never acceptable. So, even if they do start distributing their beers over here, I’m not going to be giving them a cent.