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Dick Cantwell Resigns from Anheuser-Busch and Elysian

Dick Cantwell has resigned from Anheuser-Busch and brewed his last beer at Elysian Brewing Company. One of the co-founders and co-owners, Cantwell is recognized as the brewing genius behind Elysian’s success. As has been widely reported, Elysian was acquired by Anheuser-Busch in January. Amongst Elysian’s ownership group, Cantwell was a dissenting voice in that decision.

Cantwell has long been an active, passionate member of the craft brewing community, both nationally and locally, and it is hard to imagine Elysian Brewing Company without him. (Above, Dick playing Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots at Latona Pub, which will host a Dick Cantwell Appreciation Night event this evening – Mon. April 13.)

“I am a craft brewer, past, present and future…”

The annual Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) kicks off tomorrow in Portland and this news will surely be a topic of conversation amongst the thousands of attendees. Since being acquired by Anheuser-Busch, Elysian Brewing no longer fits the Brewers Association’s definition of craft brewery, which states that a craft brewery is “small, independent and traditional.” Cantwell actually helped architect that definition while serving on the Brewers Association’s Board of Directors.

Elysian can still be involved in the CBC, but the nature of its involvement with the Brewers Association, which organizes and hosts the conference, has changed. Regarding Cantwell himself, who enjoys a national reputation in the industry, news of his resignation will change the tone of the conversation.

“Just wanted to let you know that about half an hour ago I resigned from Anheuser Busch,” said Dick Cantwell via email this morning. “The tenor of the deal, mainly from the point of view of my former partners and me, was such that I can’t possibly work with them into a future of any duration. My concerns were never even considered as a factor of whether we should or shouldn’t. From the start it was me against everyone else, with no regrets expressed. Enough about that.”

“In the past few months AB has treated me with consideration and seriousness, and they’ve presented me some pretty exciting future possibilities, should I be able to see my way clear to working for them. But I can’t. I am a craft brewer, past, present and future, no matter what I end up doing. Naturally I’m not one to whine about the Definition, about being on the wrong side of it, etc. I helped craft the thing while I was on the BA Board, and while I have my own personal reservations about some aspects, I think it’s important to recognize some differences in realms of the market.”

34 comments

  1. dick has always been a class act, all the way back to the duwamps cafe days. life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

  2. Courageous man with incredible integrity. I have not had a hero since I outgrew Superman. I have one now. Whatever comes next, I will be at the head of the line to support you.

  3. I have always respected Dick, and doubly so now. I would guess he took a financial hit for this, but this will be mitigated by the strength of his integrity to his beliefs, and to Craft Beer. Good luck to you Dick, in whatever you do, or wherever you end up!

    – David

  4. Try to be early, as this venue fills up. Great kitchen, great beer selection, and a near ideal place for this event.
    Thanks to everyone involved in getting the word out.

  5. With the proceeds from the sale of Elysian, Dick is now free of monetary concerns and can write and experiment as much as he likes. I applaud his commitment to craft brewing and I enjoy drinking beer created from his recipes – and I look forward to seeing what he does now that he is independently wealthy. However, let’s not lose sight of the fact that it was Anhauser-Busch that put that money in his bank account and will now allow him to pursue his interests. The world of business is not black and white – there is a lot of grey and holding Dick up as the hero of craft brewing just seems a little ironic when his pockets are weighed down with corporate wealth. It is easy for Dick to claim that he would never have sold to Anhauser-Busch, and lay all that responsibility on his partners, knowing that they were solidly backing the sale. The real question is, if his had been the deciding vote, the vote that would have meant that he would not have the wealth he now has, would he really have voted against the sale?

    1. Free of monetary concerns? He’s also free of his brewery. Yes, he can pursue other interests, like starting over again … with a new brewery? I think I see what you’re getting at, but it seems a little odd to put so much emphasis on his new freedom, when it sounds like he would’ve preferred to stay on and keep creating interesting things at Elysian.

    2. Such ignorance to speak on behalf of someone else on what could have been, why not look at the facts? You judge a tree by the fruit it bears. With or without the money, this is is a man of his convictions who holds much integrity for what he helped start. He voted against the sale in the beginning and he just proved that he is standing by his vote. Much respect to you Dick Cantwell and best of luck in all of your future endeavors. To those against the leviathan beast of beer, raise your glass.

      1. Great insight/comment Jason. Some these guys have no respect for decades of passion and dedication.

    3. Anhauser-Busch was bought by the global corporation InBev. Let’s not forget that it’s AB InBev that purchased Elysian; not the large U.S. brewery, but a much larger group that’s sole purpose has been gobbling up brands to please shareholders. It’s a global type of capitalism that we all will have to get used to. Say what you will about AB, but they scare me much less than this group.

    4. you talk as if you believe he was broke before the sale and that InBev made him… Seems to me, they did make him, they made him an unhappy individual… He has my total respect.

    5. They almost sold to Pyramid in 2003! Dick was the only abstainer of the partners to the sale. Your comment of pocket weighed down by corp. is pathetic at best. This is why not everyone should be allowed to express views. Your a moron, plain and simple!

  6. Dick

    I wish and know your endeavors will be successful.

    Always have given you local support from day one.

    Thank you for your amazing beers and your awesomeness.

    I’ll be here still looking out to enjoy your amazing beers.

    Best regards,

    Todd L. DeWoody

  7. Integrity these days being defined as taking the pay off and then walking out rather than walking out and refusing the blood money? Funny world.

    1. Sounds like a lot of either Budweiser corporate comments or just plain stupidity. Oh he left us, and took Bushe’s money. Hello morons was he supposed to day no to money when it didn’t make a difference?

  8. In all the static that accompanied my blast at Elysian for selling to AB, nobody knew of my own acute pain at having to even obliquely taking a swing at Dick Cantwell. For the entire time I’ve been selling beer in Seattle, Dick was a genuine beacon, the embodiment of what “craft brewing” SHOULD be. It does my SOUL good to see this. Thanks, Kendall, for bringing this sort of news and letting us all see that the integrity of a real craft pioneer cannot be bought, diluted, or compromised. I don’t know where Dick will go next but I plan to follow, enjoy, and support in any way I can. I’m going to bed happy, tonight, to see that the heart of Seattle craft brewing is beating unobscured once again.

  9. Words fail to express the debt we all owe to Dick Cantwell. His dedication and integrity shine through his opposition to this sale. This is craft beer. This is Dick Cantwell.

  10. What more can be said.
    Dick is a true and solid figure in the world of craft brewing and a very decent human above all !

  11. Sorry to burst your bubble of perceived and yet so fascinating thoughts of Cantwell. He was more than glad to walk off with the cash and boast his allegiance to craft brewing! He has not brewed a winning beer since Mens Room, a main stream effort at best. *Often taking the credit of the recipes he had no part in. His dedication has been to his own needy ego. He has had very little input to the day to day dealings with Elysian for several years and was graciously offered a job @ AB (All private equity firms interested in the company had no plans on keeping him around…dead weight). A Has been brewer and wanna be writer. Touche and best of luck!!

  12. Dear tattletales, as someone who happened to join the industry in 1995 and lived on Capitol Hill, I can attest to the effort of all 3 managing owners in building Elysian from scratch. Your issues with Dick’s day-to-day job after 20 years tells me you don’t know shit about owning and growing a business. I would hope that after 20 years he was letting his very talented crew create their own great beers under his training and mentoring while he worked on the larger issues required of a production system.

    Not sure there could ever be “a has been brewer”, unless you believe craft beer is just a passing fad. And since he has a couple of books and lots of other writings to his credit, I’d say “wanna be” does not mean what you seem to think it means. What books have you had published lately?

    1. Dear J, sorry but you OBVIOUSLY have the PR version of the story, Good on you! The truth hurts. I also heard he didn’t no how to work on the “production system ” at the GT location. And by the by, I’m locally grown!

  13. tattletales,

    If you would like to be taken seriously, please step from behind your internet anonymity and have a mature, open conversation.

    Signed,

    Matthew Lincecum
    Fremont Brewing Company

    …and you?

  14. Tattletales,
    You may be local, but you don’t know shit about this issue. And anyone who flames anonymously will just be ignored.
    You are doing a good job of displaying your ignorance.
    Instead of bashing Dick, you could learn a lot about respect and integrity from him.

    1. All,
      Both sentiments are correct. I’ve been there, having been part of a small boutique commercial real estate business that sold out to a publicly-traded REIT. I voted for the sale, but fully expecting I would be short lived for the corporate world. But I also saw the proceeds from the sale as potentially representing a point in time opportunity to capitalize on many years of hard work growing the business from scratch. The transaction took place and I strove for 6 years to make it work, with great compensation, security, and satisfying collaboration with both old and new coworkers, but with the loss of all entrepreneurial and creative motivation. And I can’t even begin to enumerate all the little “big company” irritations that became a daily way of life.

      Walked away for good 2 years ago, completely happy and satisfied with no regrets. I now have my own consulting business, work much less and, more or less when I want to, but have total freedom and and I’m completely happy. But, I recognize, and this is important, what happened to me could only happen because the liquidation event happened first. No one should be completely defined by their craft or their career, so my hat is off to someone who can find a way to get to that plan B or phase 2 of life, even if it takes selling the business they helped create to a bigger player. After all, only change is constant………

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