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Monday 28 March 2011

Craft beer lost to the Giants? Or an inevitable progression?

Today Goose Island was purchased by Anheuser-Busch Inbev. This got me thinking. Is that a bad thing or not? Large companies buying smaller operations to extend their portfolio. However some would think of it as the small guy being pressured to sell out. I have to say I fall into the first camp on this one.

Goose Island for me have never been a small operation. Im sure that some people remember the good ole' days when they started out. Me, I dont and I have only ever considered them as a big craft brewery; much in the same way I would consider Sierra Nevada or Brooklyn. I realise that for some this will not take the sting out of them being bought by a large multinational but if AB have no plans to drastically change what Goose Island are doing then for me its not a problem. If on the other hand they try to stop seasonal special brews and water down the existing brand then I will be pretty annoyed. However it doesnt seem like thats the intention here.

The deal has cost AB Inbev a reported $38.8 million. Although it seems like a lot of money I bet this deal has been weighed up very carefully by the relevant people at AB. I am pretty sure that they will do pretty well out of this deal. Lets not forget that AB Inbev already owned a part of Goose Island and pretty much took care of all its distribution; something which has certainly helped Goose Island to get where it is now. The only changes that we know for certain that are being made is that Greg Hall the current Brewmaster and son of the original founder is leaving and that the current head brewer is filling his shoes. It also seems that AB Inbev have committed to spending $1.3 million on upping production too, which I think is a good thing.

It is important to remember that this deal doesnt give AB full control of the company as 42% is still owned by The Craft Brewers Alliance. Nevertheless it does give a multinational majoirty control of the company. I know that some will feel that this is a negative step for the US craft beer scene but I think only time will tell and for the moment I feel pretty positive about the deal. Even if it does mean giving some of my cash to the money men at AB Inbev when I want a nice cold bottle of Honkers


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