What Beer Nerds Are Saying About Goose Island and Anheuser-Busch

The Belgium-based beer giant took over the beloved Chicago beer institution today. Lots of people are skeptical that it spells the end of a local company that balanced quality and quantity, but there’s reason to hope. And if that doesn’t work out, there are plenty of other craft bottles in the cooler.

goose island beer

If you’re one of the many drinkers of 312, or one of the fewer beer-connoisseur fans of Bourbon County Stout or Matilda, you probably saw the news that Anheuser-Busch InBev is buying Goose Island. Goose Island has had a distribution deal with A-B for several years, but this will expand the brewer’s production capacity. But what does this mean for you, the beer drinker?

* For James Janega, some hometown pride is lost: “As I read the Tribune alert while commuting past a skyline dominated by the Willis Tower – and walked past the Macy’s on State Street and the old Carson Pirie Scott building that will become a Target (and as Target announces it could be moving into a site where Cabrini Green once stood), it occurred to me how much of Chicago’s cultural icons – the stuff that draws people into Chicago – are now owned by out-of-town interests.”

* Greg Hall, who is stepping down as Goose Island’s brewmaster, talked with Time Out’s Heather Shouse. He says that “with AB helping us add capacity it will enable us to add new stuff and keep up with the growth of brands like Matilda, which has grown 100 percent in each of the last three years,” and suggests what I suspect will be the immediate change: it won’t effect their distribution here, but Anheuser-Busch will push their beers in other markets.

* Karl Klockars has a thoughtful, analytical take at Guys Drinking Beer. His prediction is that the bean counters will sacrifice quality eventually, but puts it in context: “Chicago hasn’t had this many other craft beer options since Prohibition.”

* A commenter at Chicagoist notes that Dogfish Head, when faced with demand outstripping supply, simply cut back on the states they distributed to.

* The Wall Street Journal runs the numbers: “Goose Island’s brands are sold in 24 states and parts of Europe, but 60% of its sales are in Illinois.”

* Andy Crouch isn’t worried:

For the doubters, you need only consider what Goose Island has done since 2006 [when they began their A-B distribution and sold a minority stake to Craft Brewers Alliance, which A-B has a minority stake in] the  and then ask whether your local, “independent” brewery has fared as well. GI has introduced Sofie, Fleur, Juliet, Madame Rose, Pepe Nero and Nightstalker, as well as a number of variations on Bourbon County Stout. It has instituted a sustainability project meshed with a session beer offering through Green Line.

Crouch suggests that it might also be the welcome end of A-B’s “series of half-hearted, faux-craft brands” (recall American Ale… or don’t, that’s probably better). The Pour Curator also noted A-B’s ongoing inability to make craft beer on a large scale as a reason A-B took over Goose Island.

* Chitown On Tap: “It’s not enough for Anheuser-Busch to peddle carboard-piss flavored swill anymore, and that’s an encouraging sign.”

As for Twitter, the lamentations haven’t been as strong as when it was announced AT&T would take over T-Mobile, so they’ve got that going for them.


Photograph: Bernt Rostad (CC by 2.0)



3 years ago
Posted by Charlious

I've never had any "Goose Island Beer" so I can't say that this buyout is either good or bad. When I went to market today I did look to see if they might have it. No they didn't. Ahhhh! well So be it. Just don't change the recipe. If it comes to Burbank, ca then I'll try a bottle.

3 years ago
Posted by MrJM

But I can still let my out-of-town friends buy Goose Island when they come to visit, right?

-- MrJM

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 anysuchname

I think HumberThumbert above hits the nail on the head - for a lot of people, it was great to buy local, but it was also great to buy INDEPENDENT. I totally get the much-needed influx of cash GI will get to expand production facilities and the like, but with that also comes the fact that A-B will profit as GI profits now (the distribution deal didn't profit A-B quite so directly or as handsomely, no?).

However, I find it quite easy to get craft beers at every bodega in my neighborhood. My tiny Mexican grocery store carries Founder's, Bell's, Great Lakes, Three Floyd's, New Belgium, New Holland, and several others I'm forgetting at the moment. So it looks like rather than going local, we'll have to start drinking regional, which is perfectly fine for me because I love the Midwest.

2 years ago
Posted by moremarrier

Why would you not want the BEST for your local beer?AB is that and then some...

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