Magic Rock takeover response

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.

Rainbow Project 2015

The meteoric rise of Magic Rock continues. First they open up in Huddersfield in 2011 and immediately make a big splash, winning awards left right and centre. 2015 they move to bigger premises right where I grew up in BIrkby and they open a brewery tap on the site, just a short walk from my work. The Brewery Tap there immediately became as essential as the beers. Many out of towners make the pilgrimage despite it being a little but out of the town centre, lured by the promise of many Magic Rock beers all on tap at one place.

Yet this is not about how wonderful the Magic Rock Tap is (and it is). This is about the mind-blowing beer festival they hosted. Last year’s Rainbow Project happened in London and saw various UK brewers making beers especially for the festival. This years, the stakes were higher. 7 UK breweries collaborating with 7 US breweries to make 7 special brews for this years beer festival. 2015 also saw it happening simultaneously at London’s Beavertown Brewery and at Huddersfield’s Magic Rock.

On top of that, every UK brewery had at least one of their beers on tap and all the American breweries had multiple beers on tap. Oh, and lots of street food stalls selling everything from wood fired pizza to exotic eastern dishes.

We got there before doors opened at twelve and there was already a massive queue, buzzing with anticipation. The icing on the cake was the sun stayed out all day so there was plenty of room for everyone to sit down and enjoy the booze. So, here’s the Rainbow Project specials in all their glory:

A collaboration between Lake District brewers Hawkshead and Denver Colorado brewery, Crooked Stave, the Key Lime Tau really was something extra special. A sweet taste that haunted my dreams for months afterwards. I hunted down bottles of it and sought it out at beer festivals. A legend of a beer. Beer of the year.




Beavertown/ Dogfish Head – Anja

tingling, sour berrie tasting beastie….like unripe blackberries gone really naughty






Wild Beer Co + Firestone Walker – Violet Underground

Another sour but oddly pale with a kind of grapefruit taste to it






Partizan + Prairie – Real Time Saison

Not that sour, oddly, but tasted like marijuana! Must have been the lemongrass?





Magic Rock + Cigar City – Cigarro Roja Magico

Very dry and hoppy with an aromatic aftertaste






Buxton + Arizona Wilderness – Deep Valley Rainbow

Just the sourest beer I ever tasted! An extraordinary hit on the tastebuds






Siren + Surly – Blue Sky Sea

Wow, this was one salty beer. Definitely one for beer explorers not for casuals but I enjoyed it a hell of a lot. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the Key Lime Tau, this would have been beer of the year for me.

After those 7 belters, I was definitely feeling the effects a little but with so much American beer over here in Yorkshire, we had to keep going a little longer. Of particular interest to me was the beers over from Arizona Wilderness in Phoenix as I’m going to live there soon so it felt like the done thing despite the hefty import price. It was worth it and made me feel optimistic about my future, although I kno w I will miss having something like Magic Rock around.

Special thanks to Scott Patient, who’ll also be missed.