Mainspring, Part 4 – A Few More Nails

(Recap: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

“For some reason we saw ourselves as acting in a parental way. Trying to steer a child away from bad choices.”

I met ‘R’ in a restaurant half an hour’s drive from JFK airport. My layover was only a few hours before a connecting flight, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. ‘R’ is a former board member of the Brewers Association. He claims to be responsible for leaking the emails.

“I suppose we were poor parents.”

But why did the BA want this in the first place? Surely any kind of influence in the natural progression of another country’s beer culture was in contradiction of some kind of Star Trek-esque Prime Directive not to interfere.

“The entire board was worried that, without an effective body to protect the UK craft beer movement’s interests, and without a proper definition, it needed drastic measures to prevent Big Beer steering the whole thing into ruin. ‘Mainspring’ was actually called ‘Core’ – a plan to help ‘uplift’ a number of smaller breweries to becoming more influential, independently powerful and less prone to buyouts. The idea was to accelerate the UK scene.

“Cavendish was approached as a consultant, to help us figure out strategy, but he was deemed too dangerous to bring on board. We lost interest in the project and put it on the back burner. Little did we know, he took our ideas and ran with them on his own.”

Just a few months after the leak from within Brewers Association, a number of board members step down. Across the Atlantic, the outrage kept burning.

Mainspring itself was, to the surprise of many, still commercially afloat. Whilst its draught sales had spiked and than plummeted, the sales of Mainspring’s beers in cans and bottles seemed to stay steady. UK craft was a very different place, now that it had found both a bottomless source of bitter betrayal and a nascent protest movement of sorts to tap into it. Still, this was a scene ruled by social media, blogs and crucially: clicks. The bizarre side effect of this strange brew was that Mainspring’s beers were still being bought by the thousands, purely to be drainpoured, smashed, catapulted into the sea and blown up as part of a feeding frenzy, that seemed to generate neverending thousands of likes, shares, clicks, posts and retweets. The scene’s actors were still getting attention, but actual creativity and self-expression was starting to fade.

And one can only wonder just how many cans and bottles out of each six pack purchased were actually destroyed.

In response to these healthy sales, Mainspring didn’t close down, or even reduce output, it simply re-aligned its business model to focus on small pack. It continued to release beers, many of them quite exceptional, but now enjoyed, in their own way, by an increasingly lucrative ‘outrage market’. Only now have the brewery’s sales begin to dip. Several directors, brewers and other personnel have already abandoned ship. Perhaps soon, we’ll finally be rid of them.

Craft beer culture truly began to eat itself. Beer geeks, jaded beyond all sense, slowly turned away from UK craft beer entirely, seeing it as cynical, compromised and tainted by the likes of Mainspring. Those breweries with private equity stakes in them began to be viewed the same – ethically dubious at best; morally bankrupt at worst. Drinkers now demanded integrity, and argued bitterly about it in ways that made previous online beer arguments look like playground spats. The thing was, we had never created a charter, or a code, or set of criteria that measured integrity. Size and independence meant nothing anymore. So, the drinkers began to look to the beer of other countries, even the US, providing the brewery in question wasn’t a member of the now hated BA.

As 2019 wore on, trade in specialist craft beer bars and retailers slowed, sputtered and died. Smaller breweries felt the brunt first, with over a dozen in administration by the summer, and then some big names began to fall.

But there were unusual twists of the knife, too. Bermondsey’s The Kernel, Partizan and Brew By Numbers relocated to production sites in Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels, citing falling consumption within the UK, and a wish to focus instead on their lucrative European markets.

BrewDog, Fourpure and Beavertown announce strikingly similar arrangements, described as ‘unique partnership deals’ with Stone, Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head respectively. Ostensibly maintaining their proprietary independence, each UK brewer dedicates a portion of its production to the brewing of its American partner’s beers, effectively making them satellite production sites without losing any of their precious ‘independence’. After just a year, those portions of production have now become on average 75% in favour of their American partners. The details of those arrangements remain shrouded in secrecy.

The sea change in the beer industry opens up UK craft beer to a series of previously inconceivable purchases. Total independence becomes a relic of the past, the preserve of nanobreweries and fantasies. Closures follow, by the hundred. Quickly, the average UK beer enthusiast’s ‘Following’ list on Twitter fills with deactivated, closed or unused accounts. The once endlessly crashing waves of craft beer social media slow to a quiet, flat, infrequent drip.

The change within the UK craft sector caused curious ripples and effects elsewhere, too. In 2019, Marston’s quickly shed its ersatz ‘craft’ brands from its various portfolios, selling them to major UK supermarkets. The money from the sale helps them acquire the Harvey’s, Timothy Taylor’s, Adnam’s and Brain’s brands. The pub estates of these breweries are sold off to the ever-avaricious Punch Taverns and Enterprise groups, growing their stranglehold over the pub sector. Now faced with such a behemoth in competition, industry whispers indicate a desire within Greene King and Shepherd Neame to merge, to survive.

Without any protected designation of what integrity in craft beer was, the term ‘craft’ quickly depreciates in the value, to the point that those few producers worth their salt stop using the term entirely, surrendering it to the Special Offers signs of supermarkets and the marketing men of far larger, colder concerns.

‘Craft beer’ in the UK quickly became something sold by large chains of pubs, major supermarkets, and almost no one else. Independent retailers and bars lacked the buying power and clout to survive. A handful of brewpubs and eclectic farmhouse breweries became the final outposts of independently sold and produced beer, and even those are likely not long for this world without significant investment.

We look at July 19th 2017, the announcement of Mainspring, as the harbinger of what came next. But there can be no doubt that everything that happened had links to events in 2016, 2012, 2007, perhaps even as far back as 2000 or beyond.

We’ll never know now if there was anything we could do, or if we were already on a path from which there was no turning back. Yet one cannot help but wonder, if, at the very least, we could have tried.

Mainspring, Part 3 – The Weapons Turn

(Recap: Part 1, Part 2)

The launch of Mainspring had made it clear that the British craft beer drinker was ready to be exploited. The brewery’s directors, brought together by the plans of Caistor Insight’s Wesley Cavendish, were steering Mainspring to worldwide fame and acclaim. Their launch, and subsequent international summer beer festival campaign concluded, social media was awash with praise for their beers, people and attitude. Everything from their Zentrum series Pilsner (Tettnang), Heart series Porter (London 1850) to their Nucleus series Pajottenland Sour (Gooseberry) were received with nothing less than total admiration and delight. The beers were unquestionably world-class.

Visitors to Mainspring’s brewery and taproom in Stevenage were bowled over the size, scope, polish and skill on display in every aspect of the operation. The location began to quickly make sense: easily accessible to those in London by train, but equally easy for those in the North of England to reach by rail, shrugging off any sense of the brewery being specifically ‘London’, or even Southern. It was embraced by England. and the UK, as a whole. Operating costs were lower too, helping to afford a spacious enterprise, and a taproom with the capacity to seat hundreds, who visited every weekend and experienced none of the carnage of similar ‘beer destinations’. Everything, and everyone, seemed under control.

By the beginning of 2018, the directors of Mainspring would have been forgiven for believing they had created the perfect brewery.

Indeed, after barely a year in operation, Mainspring found itself named 5th best brewery in the world in the 2018 RateBeer awards, beating Cloudwater out of the top 5 and other UK breweries down the rankings. Bottles and cans were traded internationally on an almost daily basis and hyped to the point of social media saturation by thousands of fans.

Then the madness began.

Mainspring’s ownership had always been stated as a mix of private equity and independent capital. As early as late 2017, consumers had become used to the phrase ‘private equity’ being banded about, and almost indifferent to the idea of venture capitalists carving out ever greater slices of the booming craft sector. Consumers even seemed a little bored by the constant arguments about it. Even some of the macro brewers had managed to successfully make the case that, whilst independence could be important, surely the beer was far more important?

The quality, output and sheer volume of well-received and highly-acclaimed beers released into the marketplace by Mainspring had squashed a lot of the life out of the debate. Private equity? So what? Now, more than ever, British beer was in true ascendance, and the rising tide was raising all the boats. Until August 1st 2018, the day when (what was to be the final) London Beer City was launched.

Mainspring had filled the yearly celebration’s calendar with events, and had hinted they would soon be announcing a London-based bar of their own. The beer world was at fever pitch with excitement for what the summer would yet bring. Until the news broke.

An American beer blogger had contacted Good Beer Hunting with an audio file, and its transcript, of Wesley Cavendish at a ‘big data’ business conference, admitting privately to a few friends that, of all the work his company had done, he was most proud of ‘the whole Mainspring thing’. The blogger gave the contact details of a former Caistor Insights employee who had corroborated the audio file. After GBH made their own enquiries, obtaining statements from several other Caistor Insights employees who no longer feared reprisals, they ran the story on their Sightlines column. Whilst the full understanding of how Caistor did what they did only became known many months later (see Part 2), GBH’s piece did effectively place Cavendish as the main antagonist of the piece, orchestrating the creation of a ‘perfect brewery’ to prove just how pliant and malleable the beer industry, and its consumers, could be.

The beer world all but erupted.

Announcements of buyouts, private equity purchases and ‘special partnerships’ had become almost commonplace, but the revelations of the work of Caistor Insights was another matter entirely. People’s memories were short, but not short enough to forget the role of ‘fake news’ and the manipulation of public opinion in both the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump. Those wounds, and the wounds caused by subsequent and myriad other shocks in politics, business and sport since, were still raw.

Everyone knew social media was as a battlefield. But consumers, bloggers, professionals and key influencers had thought themselves the soldiers in that battle, when in fact they were the weapons, ready to be used by those with the skill and dark intention to do so. Unless, those weapons became truly aware of what they were. Suddenly, all eyes were on Mainspring the company, not the brewery, and the success story began to unravel.

Mainspring’s directors names had always been publicly available – all them well-known as experienced industry professionals with many years of experience between them. When the truth about Caistor Insights’ involvement, and direct role in creating Mainspring, came to light, the dry kindling of the internet-connected beer world was set ablaze in fresh outrage, as it had been time and time again. However, this time was different. When crowdfunding campaigns had led to breweries being bought either in part or in total, for example, people felt somewhat hurt and manipulated. This was that same feeling multiplied tenfold. One peek behind the curtain had turned the pliant and malleable masses into a venomous, enraged mob.

Blog posts poured forth, articles in mainstream press helped spread the flames, and suddenly there were organised drainpours being livestreamed on social media, all whilst Mainspring’s beers continued to receive award after award in competitions judged months before. #FAKEBREWS was the hashtag that became the adopted masthead for the reaction to the news.

Perhaps most memorably, the major craft beer festivals that summer and autumn (most of which Mainspring quickly pulled out of, anyway) saw a heavily increased security presence, as the digital outrage became very real, physical protests. Some occurred spontaneously in queues and halls, whilst others were orchestrated, masked, ‘Occupy’-style events, most notably resulting in injuries and a police response at 2018’s IndyManBeerCon, and at Mainspring’s taproom itself, until it was of course forced to close ‘for the foreseeable future’. The brewery would never open to the public again.

Towards the end of the year, the situation began to calm, to a low simmer at least. Articles bemoaning the damage Mainspring had caused seemed to grow less frequent (and all the while, those who still had the brewery’s magnificently brewed beers in their fridges and cellars enjoyed them as before, but silently). More buyouts by AB Inbev became more popular talking points for a month or two, until the Mainspring saga flared up once more, and for the final time.

One quiet November morning, a leaked email thread was forwarded from a quickly-deleted Gmail address to roughly two hundred journalists, beer bloggers, and industry professionals. The email thread in question, now infamous, was between a number of colleagues of the Brewers Association in the United States, discussing, with increasing concern, just how they were going to contain and, ideally, hide their involvement as the originators of the plan to create Mainspring.

Within a year, British craft beer as we know it would be almost extinct.

Final part tomorrow.

Mainspring, Part 2 – Brand Desires

(Read Part 1 here)

Mainspring’s logo, at the time of their launch in 2017.

“It was the beer. That was what I told myself. I mean, you tasted it, we all tasted it. It was phenomenal. We had no idea that we’d end up with this.” My interviewee, ‘B’, pauses a moment to gesture around angrily.

We’re sat in one of London’s Samuel Smith’s pubs, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, but I know B was not referring to the pub itself. He’s gesturing north, east, south and west, above and below, at everything wrought in the world of beer by his former employer.

The choice of venue seems fitting. Like monuments made from older, stronger stone, Samuel Smith’s pubs have watched quicker-lived beer cultures rise around them, only to be eroded by time’s tide. They remain the time-machines-to-the-1970s they always have been, and feel like a place of true escapism now. Once a contrast to a beer culture with a faster metabolism, Sam Smith’s pubs now feel like a holiday to a place without any painful traces of ‘craft beer’ to be found.

B is incognito to avoid any chance of crossing the path of an angry beer geek. I barely recognised him as he sidled up to me at the bar. His beard shaved to extinction, his glasses replaced by contact lenses, he dresses in an unbranded grey zip-up hoodie and a trucker cap (one small concession to his former appearance). B exudes the same nervous energy of other Mainspring employees I have met, sorry for what happened but not sorry for what they made. “We knew what we were doing could end badly. We knew there was a plan. But we really thought that the beer we made was worth anything. In the end, it cost everything.”

There is a commonly held misconception that Mainspring was co-opted after it was founded, and had its noble aims blackened. To get the truth of Mainspring’s origin, I had to speak to one of the founding directors.

Throughout Mainspring’s short, Icarus-like history, its directors remained in the background, to the point of appearing illusive or non-existent. The directors preferred the brewery’s employees, drawn from high-profile breweries across the UK, and the world, to take the limelight.

Nevertheless, six very real men and women were certainly running Mainspring, each with extensive backgrounds in brewing, distribution, finance, marketing, sales and operations; but they were brought together by another party. B admits that the offer of a job with Mainspring felt Faustian, but it was nothing compared to the one offered to the company’s directors in the first place: create the best brewery in the country within a year, and have almost limitless resources. The price? Knowing that there is a very real chance that your brewery’s rise to fame could precipitate the gutting of the entire industry.

‘D’ had worked in distribution for a number of UK and European companies for the past ten years, eventually specialising in craft beer and seeking greater challenges. She was first approached about buying into a new venture in late 2016, by a man named Wes Cavendish, from a company calling itself Caistor Insights.

“He told me from the very beginning that he didn’t know anything about beer, and that he didn’t care to. He said he was only interested in proving what could be achieved.”

D has met me at a bar in Hoxton, East London. Here, bars and pubs seem to have been the quickest to moved on, though A-boards on the street still bare the faint, recently-erased lines of the words ‘CRAFT BEER’. Ghosts rendered in chalk.

“Cavendish talked a lot about Brexit, and Trump, and populism, and knowing what people are going to do before they do it. Knowing what people want. He said his people had done enough research to prove that, with enough data points [about someone’s age, gender, interests, social media activity etc] it was possible to make a ‘perfect brand’. He said that they [Caistor Insights and companies like them] had proven it could be done with democracy, so why not with a business?”

It was true that companies like Caistor Insights who specialised in ‘Big Data’, information willingly given by people in their use of online services and applications, had played a role in the success of the UK referendum on Brexit and the US presidential election. Even so, some felt this role was overstated, so if they had had such a hard time in the world of politics, why make the move to beer?

“They thought craft beer was the perfect test, as there would be so much data for them to extract from social media, blogs, apps and so on, and with relatively low risk of being… discovered.” But why would craft beer drinkers be more gullible or less aware than others of this kind of manipulation?

The answer was simple. “Arrogance,” says D. “Caistor’s earliest work on the project had proven that craft beer consumers, as well as those working in it, often thought they were immune to being deceived, which made it all the easier for their egos to be flattered. Mainspring was designed for them.”

So how did Cavendish, a man used to the world of politics and with no interest in beer, create ‘the perfect brewery’ that would set the entire industry alight?

‘Big data’ specialists like Caistor Insights use psychometrics (also known as psychographics) to measure and determine people’s personalities, based on the ‘Big Five’ or ‘O.C.E.A.N.’ personality categories (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism). To use these accurately once required extensive questionnaires, but in the age of social media, big data companies were simply able to mine people’s social media, particularly Facebook likes, to determine personalities and behaviour (and you can test it out for yourself on the website of the Psychometrics Centre of the University of Cambridge). Those with the right tools and resources could potentially use psychometrics to make lists of voters to target with specific ads, or, as Caistor envisioned, drinkers to target with specific beers.

Craft beer proved to be fertile ground for Caistor – a beer culture that gave its opinions, feelings and desires willingly, and lengthily, across a whole range of social media and applications. But these drinkers were no long people, or even consumers, they became ‘datasets’. Based on all the information they happily gave to websites like RateBeer and BeerAdvocate, apps like Untappd, and the usual social media, the ranges of beers to best meet the needs of the datasets were composed and constructed. But these were not recipes, or even beer styles. More work was needed.

The overlapping and occasionally conflicting interests from different datasets, such as, for example, being obsessive fans of a particular cask ale, but generally preferring keg beer and shunning most other cask beers, presented ‘refreshing and exciting challenges’ for Caistor, which spent a great deal of time trying to ‘understand’ beer geeks. This was done by dedicating server capacity to unravelling common factors between blogs, RateBeer scores, Untappd data and more. Resources were spent interviewing attendees at various UK beer festivals, both traditional and modern, under the guise of a young couple starting a Dutch YouTube channel, ‘Bier Extreem!’. The answers helped Caistor Insights make sense of the flood of data.

D describes meeting another Caistor Insights employee, much later in the development of Mainspring. He resembled “a drill sergeant with marketeer’s fashion sense”. More rugged, less detail-oriented language was spoken. Data ranges were ‘thrown against the wall to see what sticks’, the raw results from their market research went through a ‘bullshit-strainer’ and was pulled apart by ‘number fuckers’ to extrude the most salient information. You imagine some Caistor Insights employees work far longer hours than others.

The result was based on the boiled down data from all this work. When it was all presented to D and her fellow potential directors, Caistor described the process as being ‘simple’, applying binary answers and continuing to filter the results as necessary, until they had formula for creating enough beers to please every beer drinker.

A set of four spectra were developed: light/amber/dark; strong/session/special; experimental/accessible; and modern/traditional. With these alone, Caistor believed it could create the range of beers to suit the specific demands and tastes of the vast majority of the UK craft beer scene. It could create a brewery with output to satisfy anyone.

Caistor called these combinations ‘brand desires’, each of which correlated to identified interests from thousands of the datasets. The results became Mainspring’s tantalising opening line-up.

Brand Desire 1: Light-Traditional-Accessible-Session (Zentrum Lager series)

Brand Desire 2: Light-Modern-Experimental-Special (Nucleus mixed fermentation project)

Brand Desire 3: Amber-Traditional-Accessible-Session (Heart cask beer range)

Brand Desire 4: Amber-Modern-Experimental-Strong (Alpha IPA series)

But why were there no big dark beers in this line-up, especially considering their popularity among the RateBeerians and Instagrammers? As ever, there was cold, straightforward reasoning behind it.

Caistor had identified some ‘intriguing’ correlations between consumers being ‘surprised’ or ‘shocked’ into purchasing unannounced beers or special releases, and the kind of heavy mega-stouts and flavoured big beers that breweries like to showcase at festivals and events. A ‘brand desire’ to match this had been defined, but deliberately held back from the initial line-up:

Brand Desire 5: Dark-Modern-Experimental-Special (Foundation)

So, when festival season rolled around, and Mainspring famously announced it would release a new member of the Foundation series at every festival it attended for the next twelve months, we all, of course, lapped it up.

We, the beer drinkers, had been identified, analysed, interpreted and understood. And we were going to like what we got. We just needed to be told what to do next.

To be continued, in Part 3.

Mainspring (or, The Fall of British Craft Beer), Part 1 – Like a Trap, Sprung.

Mainspring’s logo, at the time of their launch in 2017.

Though only three years ago, the UK craft beer scene of 2017 was in great condition. The beginning of that year saw the number of UK breweries topping 1,700, with nearly 100 in London alone. There was a sense of continued momentum, sustained enthusiasm and new ‘waves’ of beer culture being born and growing organically.

On the global stage, we were starting to see the first signs of much-sought-after parity of esteem with American craft beer, but more importantly, British beer was being heralded on its own merits around the world. For example: in early 2017, Cloudwater, then barely two years old, took 5th Best Brewery in The World at the RateBeer Best Awards; UK brewers of all sizes and modes had an increased and regular presence at international festivals; some, like Beavertown, were hosting global craft beer festivals of their own; and the likes of BrewDog were even beginning overseas ventures, all in spite of the financial obstacles posed by a economy-wounding Brexit referendum the previous year.

Now, in 2020, we find ourselves in a ghost of that very same craft beer culture: a revolution turned to rout; a renaissance turned to ruin. At first eroded by tribal infighting, then diluted by increasingly avaricious buyouts and mergers, and, most spectacularly, shattered to its very core by a brewery (as difficult as it is to now call Mainspring ‘a brewery’) that many would blame for an ‘unforeseeable catastrophe’.

However, with the benefit of hindsight, the warning signs seem not only clear, but glaring. As those individual flashpoints began to flare, one after another, the real question is: how didn’t we see this coming?

Recalling those more innocent days, when beer geeks queued gleefully for the latest hyped releases at ever-larger events across the UK, is difficult and even painful for some. As hard as it is to imagine now, with so many of those exciting breweries now empty light industrial units and tenantless railway arches once again, even six months into 2017 the industry seemed stable. ‘Ale and hearty’, as the mainstream press so frequently termed it.

The announcement of Mainspring’s forthcoming launch on Twitter and Instagram was nothing short of a full-blown 24 hour phenomenon. People waking up on July 19th 2017 had never heard of Mainspring, but by 11pm that night, the whole UK beer scene had saturated social media with those oh-so-promising early images of their minimalist branding, beer range and the jaw-dropping brewery being built. By the end of July, we all knew, or least seemed fairly certain, that the arrival of Mainspring heralded the next phase of the British beer industry.
Mainspring was undoubtedly a sum total of a complex equation: the mid-2000s microbrewery explosion; added to the viral growth of the London beer scene of 2010 onwards; multiplied to the power of American fast-consuming, fresh-drinking beer culture. Mainspring was built not just to create hype but to consistently meet and exceed the expectations created by that hype – a dream come true for a UK craft beer scene with a sense of entitlement to match its prodigious growth. And what hype it created. It was, to speak personally, deeply discomforting to read those early tweets and posts from Mainspring  again to research this piece. How could we have not realised just who had been paying attention to this tumultuous, evolving beer landscape? Not just observing, but constructing and executing meticulous plans.
At the time, all that industry experts and commentators could see was an astonishing new player on the scene, one who was revitalising the enthusiasm of even the most seasoned and jaded beer geeks. The frequently-tweeted variations on ‘April the 1st was ages ago, this can’t be for real’ filled everyone’s timelines that fateful day. Others, though, seemed strangely quiet about Mainspring, in particular, many of the UK’s leading beer writers and industry journalists. It was only revealed much later that certain members of the British Guild of Beer Writers had been issued a sternly-worded embargo by Mainspring, the incentive being offers of favourable access for interviews, tours, tastings and other ‘promotional opportunities’. My own employment at a brewery excluded me from being approached, but it was undoubtedly a masterstroke, making the announcement of the brewery’s existence all the more of a surprise, and most importantly, a social media feeding frenzy.
Now, Mainspring’s business model reads like a preposterously arrogant blueprint for a Tower of Babel. Back then, it gave hope to an industry desperate for new vision; a new powerhouse to take things to the next level, whatever that might be. The UK craft beer scene, whilst a thrilling and fulfilling world to be part of, had become an over-privileged child with an limitless appetite, flexible morals and little in the way of self-awareness. The landscape, shaped by the desires of completionists, rarity-hunters and social media activity, had become fertile soil in which to grow a brand that seemed to be pure wish fulfillment.
The brewery’s marketing was keen-edged and finely polished from the get-go. ‘We are Mainspring’ said the fateful first tweet from @MainspringBeer at 08:01am on July 19th, accompanied with the now-infamous image of their gargantuan facility. Over the course of the day, more detail was gradually and tantalisingly revealed, including the fact that they were based in Stevenage. Stevenage? we all asked with incredulity.
After the initial tweets about the branding and state-of-the-art brewhouse, came the incredible details of the brewery’s almost unbelievable proposed portfolio. The ‘Heart’ cask-conditioned beer range; ‘Zentrum’ family of authentic European lagers; the ‘Alpha’ canned IPA range; and, if that wasn’t enough, the ‘Nucleus’ mixed fermentation project, each was described with a barely palatable level of confidence. Furthermore, each seemed to have an equal priority in the brewery’s production plans. This was a big brewery they were launching, and they seemed utterly alien in comparison to their peers at that time. The absence of any ‘core’ range, like that of Beavertown, BrewDog or even Lost and Grounded, or even a seasonal catalogue like that of Cloudwater left many wondering how a brewery that scale could sustain such an approach. What would pay the presumably astronomical bills? Of course, we should have been asking, who.
Once those beers were finally released, and tasted, each and every one demonstrated an unsettling level of mastery. For, as the launch of the brewery came closer, many began to suspect a hoax, but no one was truly ready for just how good the beers would be. And the hordes of beer geeks who tasted them for the first time had been whipped into a frenzy long before then.
It’s hard to not feel naive, now, looking back. In a way, Mainspring had almost tipped its hand to us all, with some tweets just a few hours after the first. It wasn’t what they said, but rather, what they chose not to say.
(12:01pm July 19th, 2017)

Then, a few minutes later:

(12:05pm July 19th, 2017)

The first definition was certainly the one that Mainspring’s marketing team wished to convey as the ‘mission statement’, but in the end, it was that second definition that deserved our close attention. The mechanism of their plan, designed to be as predictable and certain as clockwork, had indeed been loaded, wound and, like a trap, sprung.

To be continued, in Part 2.

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