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)

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