Boy you’re mad. Goose Island is now fully owned by Anheuser-Busch. Anytime you buy a Goose Island product, you support a corporate giant that is out to win the shelf space war against the craft beer industry- or at least co-opt it.
Even if the quality stays exactly the same – or improves — Goose Island no longer deserves your dollars.
Even though the Goose is now part of some international corporate holding company, it could still end up benefiting the craft beer community.
After all its not as if one wing of the goose wasn’t already aligned with AB anyway, in that company’s stake in the Craft brewers Alliance (CBA). And according to John Hall, and numerous contest judges as well, the goose flew pretty high.
“Take a look at the awards we won since everyone said we sold out in 2006, and the new beers that we brought out,” Hall told me on Thursday. “Why would anyone think we are going to change?”
I can’t say I disagree. Since 2006, Goose Island has done nothing but grow as much as possible – while still remaining to be innovative. As Hall pointed out, they have a barrel aging program (nearly 2,000 barrels) that is one of the finest in the country. Products like the Bourbon County Stout and Fleur have remained highly experimental, edgy and fresh.
The key here is that they have grown to a point where they now need additional investments in order to continue the growth. For Hall, this meant either a private investment firm, or alignment with AB, whom they already had a relationship with through CBA.
“We met with financial investors and they have different requirements and, quite frankly, I have more freedom under this than I would with a financial investor,” said Hall. “A financial investor that doesn’t know the business is going to demand higher returns and be much more restrictive on what you do.”
So what happens next? Well, Goose Island produces more beer. Close to 40,000 barrels will be contracted out to Red Hook in New Hampshire as part of a previously arranged agreement with CBA. In addition, AB will put $1.3 million into renovating the current brewery in Chicago.
The hope for Hall is that with increased production, comes an influx of new craft beer drinkers onto the scene.
Julia Herz, the Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association, agreed.
“As a beer lover, personally I advocate for an ever expanding universe for craft beer drinkers,” she said. “The more that light, American lager, is no longer the dominant force on every beer lovers mind, the better overall for craft brewers.”
Here is something to consider: Wouldn’t you rather have increased access to quality beer? If one of your friends offers you a Goose Island beer at their next party are you going to turn it down because it belongs to a “corporate portfolio?”
If thats your metric, and not taste and quality, you might soon find yourself mighty thirsty.
“In the next five years, there isn’t really anyone around that doesn’t think that craft beer is going to double in size,” he said. “So that means there is going to have to be somewhere between ten and twenty new half-million barrel breweries. Where do you think people are going to come up with that money?”
The bottom line is this acquisition is going to allow Goose Island to produce more of the same great quality beer and earn more shelf space. It will bring new craft beer drinkers to the scene, and inevitably allow veterans of Goose Island to bring their expertise to other craft brewers in the future, something every one of the 1700-plus breweries in the U.S. can benefit from.
“They make some very unique styles of beer and it is one of the things that drew us to them initially,” said U.S. President of Anheuser-Busch, Dave Peacock. “We don’t want to do anything that will change that.”
If that’s the case, then I’ll take another. what’s good for the Goose is good for the gander- particularly if the gander has good taste.