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Yet Another Goose Island/Anheuser Busch Commentary

March 28, 2011

In what appears to be the first acquisition of a craft brewery by one of the beer giants, Goose Island has been acquired by Anheuser Busch InbevSeveral bloggers are already weighing in, and the opinions seem to be leaning negative.  Add my voice to the negative cacophony.  I suspect that the Goose Island brews will decline in quality.  Why?  Because of Mr. Hall’s discussion of capacity and distribution.  It reminds me of another brewery in the Craft Brewers Alliance:  Red Hook.  According to my friends who have lived in Seattle for nearly 50 years, Red Hook started small (down in Ballard, methinks).  Over time, though, they got bigger (ABI also has a stake there now) and wider and quality began to suffer.  I’ve been in the area only 6 years, so I don’t have anything to compare current products to, but that’s what my food critic friend tells me.  Personally, I’m not a big Red Hook fan… I see their beers as somewhat mediocre.

I also understand why many in the beer-geek community are disappointed to disgusted.  It seems as if we have a romantic view of this business (and yes, craft beer is a business).  The brewers are our rock stars.  They do what many of us want to do: make beer for a living.  We celebrate their limited releases.  We revel in the exclusivity of certain brands.  We often have access to these folks are tours.

I don’t begrudge the Goose Island owners the right do as they see fit with the company they have built.  In the end, it seems to be about money, not about the craft (as we romantically view it).  I hope I am wrong, and the Goose Island maintains a strong brand without suffering in quality, but I’m not holding my breath.

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