To: Anheuser-Busch InBev Re: Goose Island and Design

Beer snobs are worried that Goose Island’s sale to the massive booze borg will mean the disappearance of craft. As a design snob, I’m more concerned about what the bottles will look like.

Yea, there was much lamentation yesterday after the news that Goose Island would become a small part of the multinational beer barons at Anheuser-Busch InBev. I’m sympathetic but ambivalent: I’m egalitarian when it comes to beer, which is probably a self-aggrandizing way of saying I’m cheap and insufficiently discerning. Besides, there’s something to be said for the generic American lager, in that designing the perfect median taste (sort of like ketchup) is an interesting and abstractly impressive achievement in itself. And if worst comes to worst, add hot sauce.

But I am a design snob. And I really like Goose Island’s design, perhaps more than their beer. Take their line of Belgian ales:

goose island beers

 

They’re elegant, strikingly minimalist, rich and subtle, and use high-quality stock: attractive beers with attractive labels. Or take their “urban ales":

goose island urban ales 312

 

They’re clean, strong, and modern; the 312 label is practically iconic in Chicago, and the Green Line design echoes it without copying it, a balanced but not excessive consistency their line of Belgian ales also reflects.

Then there’s Anheuser-Busch. Yes, the Budweiser design is a classic. But their stabs at “craft” beer have been accompanied by tasteful but busy and forgettable designs:

budweiser american ale

 

And overbearing monstrosities that make minor league hockey team logos look like masterpieces of restraint:

budweiser craft bears shock top

 

Sure, it’s snobbery. But craft beer is an aesthetic experience–it’s supposed to be pleasing to the senses. Goose Island is skilled at first impressions, whereas Anheuser-Busch’s stumbling attempts at craft have been mirrored by their half-hearted designs: not only was the company clearly uncomfortable with making craft beer, they were uncomfortable trying to sell it as well. One of the theories for the purchase of Goose Island is that rather than continue to flail, A-B just decided to purchase the ability to do it right. If they’re clever, they’ll take the aesthetic that goes with it.

Update: Speaking of craft beer, Phil Kuhl of Fountainhead (and a Goose Island vet) presents his beer bucket list (h/t Julia Thiel). Unfortunately the only one I’ve tried is Lagunitas’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, but it is indeed very good. My current favorite is Left Hand Milk Stout, though the seasons probably have something to do with that.

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3 years ago
Posted by humberthumbert

Well, it is getting harder and harder to actually find an American beer company, where the profit from my beer dollars stay in my state or for that matter in my country. It is time to consider carefully how our money is spent, and time to spend money on the local brews. Now is the time. Good for Goose Island - they made some money. Too bad for InBev that we won't be buying it anymore.

3 years ago
Posted by hhaller

Good god, you wrote and article about craft beer and haven't even had a freaking Gossamer? Every beer on that list can be found in Chicago...

Also, Humberthumbert while it's not ideal that they won't be fully US owned they're still going to be employing a lot of Chicagoans (likely even more now) and that's a good thing.

3 years ago
Posted by MrJM

Bartender... two more MGDs for my egalitarian friend and I.

-- MrJM

3 years ago
Posted by Tighe

Thanks for the Bucket List mention. We also have bucket lists from Greg Hall and some other incredible beer people: http://www.poortastemag.com/the-beers-to-drink-before-you-die/

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