28 March 2011

When is a "Microbrew" No Longer a Microbrew? Goose Island Purchased By Anheuser-Busch

No, we're not rehashing that redefinition of a "craft brewer" by the Brewers Association from 2 million barrels annually to 6 million (which keeps Sam Adams in the statistics, but also adds Yuengling, whose application for membership in the BA was approved in January).

Anheuser-Busch, the "evil incarnate" to many a good beer fan, the "whipping boy" playing the same role as McDonald's to American cuisine, Wal-Mart to American retail, and, well, just about any TV show of late to American arts/culture..........

...... has just purchased Goose Island, the Chicago-based brewpub-and-brewing company, for $38.8 million.

The news is still evolving; check the link above to see the latest.  Thus far: Brewmaster leaving and is being replaced in-house; A-B will pump money into expanding brewing capacity; etc. The brewpubs are not part of the transaction.

Those of you who follow the business side of craft beer will remember that Goose Island was already partially owned by Craft Brewers Alliance, which is effectively a subsidiary of ABInBev set up to partially own, and aid in distribution of, such craft beers as Redhook, Goose Island, etc.

Goose Island produces some astoundingly good/great beers--give me a Honker's Ale any day.  But is there a point where they become part of the "Evil Empire" or "Axis of Evil," as some folks call the mega-swill makers?  Should we be happy that they see the likes of Pere Jacques, Honker's, Sofie, Bourbon County Stout, etc, as worthy of investment/ownership, and that they are effectively expanding their portfolio?  Or should we expect the brand to end up like a Hops franchise outlet in a few years, producing bland and insipid beers but also pouring Redhook and Bud Light?

UPDATE: More from Time Out Chicago, by way of Lew Bryson.

1 comment:

JohnM. said...

I like GI stuff as well Alex, and yes, based on past experience, I'm a bit worried.

At least in my experience, this type of involvement by AB has not lead to good things for the mircroberwery in question. I haven't really enjoyed anything made by old dominion since AB essentially took over (OK, their oak barrel stout is tolerable), and I can't remember the last time I even saw anything from Redhook (amazing, considering the ballard bitter and their ESB were nearly staples for me at one time).

Frankly, I hope I'm wrong, but it's difficult not to see something similar happening to GI beers.