The sky is not falling. This is not a sign that the end is near. There are still over 3,400 breweries in America that Anheuser-Busch does not own. Yesterday’s news that Anheuser-Busch and Elysian Brewing reached a purchase agreement shocked a lot of people. As craft beer lovers, we’ve been taught that Anheuser-Busch and the other big beer companies are our enemies. So what gives? Is Elysian now evil? Not in my mind, but that’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself.
I heard the rumors days in advance and was pretty sure the announcement was coming. Yesterday morning at 8:30, I received an email from Dick Cantwell, brewmaster and co-owner of Elysian Brewing. For the sake of disclosure, and so people understand my point of view, I will tell you that I did not consider that email to be an official announcement, just confirmation of a rumor. You can see the official announcement here.
When we spoke on the phone, all of the sentiments Dick expressed were predictable: business decision, moving the brand forward, still going to brew great beer, and so on. There was an Anheuser-Busch representative in the room with him, which I imagine was the case with all of the interviews he did yesterday.
Dick said something that I think is very important. “We hope people will continue to judge Elysian by what’s in the bottle.” There is no doubt Dick understood that people would freak out, but he really does hope people can see past the business end of things and just continue to enjoy Elysian beers.
Fate is fickle, and the news officially broke while I was on the road, in transit to Vancouver, BC. With spotty internet connectivity, and at 65 MPH, I did my best to post the story. God bless the iPhone. Posting an actual interview, verbatim, was not possible.
I write a weekly newsletter that goes out to nearly 1,000 people. I send it each Friday morning. Knowing this news might soon break, and knowing that I would be traveling on Friday morning, I sat down and wrote the following message (below) on Thursday afternoon, the day before the deal was officially announced. It speaks well to my state of mind regarding this development, and all future developments of this kind. There will be more.
Am I clairvoyant? No. Am I an oracle? No. Did I hear the same rumor that others heard? Yep.
From my newsletter, written before the announcement:
A local brewery that you love is about to announce that it signed an agreement with one of the big beer companies like Anheuser-Busch or Miller-Coors (a partnership, an acquisition agreement, something). Tomorrow, next week, next year, it is going to happen, so stand forewarned.
The story will explode on the internet and spread across social media like a full pint of beer spilled on a varnished bartop. I am warning you in advance because, when the news breaks, you will feel betrayed and scorned, your emotions will get the better of you, and unforgivable words will rise too quickly. So think now about how you will respond and be prepared for that day.
Nobody can tell you how to properly process the news, but how you respond will speak volumes about your character. This is a beloved local brewery that, today, you adore. You respect its creativity and independent spirit. Maybe one of its beers ranks among your all-time favorites. Is your affection real or fleeting? Will you quickly learn to ignore this brewery? Will you vehemently voice your hatred? Or will you give them a chance to remain in your heart, where they exist at this very moment? It’s your choice.
Think about it now. The day is coming. Probably sooner than we all think. I have heard it blowing on the wind and can see the landscape changing. I don’t want to sound like a prophet, but the day is indeed coming.
I had a dream. As Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt shot bottle rockets at me and Stephen Stills, these are the events they foretold. And lo, I was afraid.
Here are some other stories, from other sources, about this development: