SABMiller's entry into Belgium's speciality beer market makes sense and more niche deals are likely across Europe's craft beer sector.

If one was to view SABMiller's tie-up with Van Steenberge head-on, then one might conclude that the Peroni Nastro Azzurro brewer merely feels left out of the 'abbey' beer club. After all, Anheuser-Busch InBev has been pushing Leffe for some time and Heineken has Grimbergen.

Now, SABMiller will intensify competition in the abbey beer arena by introducing bottles of St Stefanus in select markets.

The key to the deal, though, is timing. SABMiller's deal comes as consumer interest in craft beers, from speciality foreign lagers to local ales, shines ever-brighter in mature markets amid declines in mainstream beer sales. At the same time, this deal specifically fits with SABMiller's studious strategy to focus on small-volume, high-margin beers in Western Europe, without laying down some extensive production network.

A BBC journalist I was chatting with yesterday asked my opinion on whether beer is, after becoming so consolidated so early, starting to mimick the individuality of the wine trade.

Of course, consolidation in beer is not reversing - quite the opposite - but, from a consumer point of view, I think that we've definitely seen moves in this direction.

I refer you to Boston Beer founder Jim Koch, who said in the US last year: "Twenty-somethings are adopting craft beer in the same way that their millenial parents adopted wine. For them, craft beer is the new wine."

Of course, most people still pick up a trusty bottle of Budweiser and they probably always will. A significant proportion of consumers are, though, developing more diverse, more discerning tastes in mature markets. 

It is something that I expect to see multinational brewers latching onto more and more. Already this year, we have seen Molson Coors buy Sharp's brewery in the UK. Now, SABMiller has signed a deal in Belgium, although Van Steenberge will stay independent. Last year, meanwhile, Heineken sought to acquire De Koninck brewery, also in Belgium. This micro-consolidation is an emerging trend that's worth watching.