Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall talks to guests at a special tasting event in Seattle last June. Greg will be stepping down.

Goose Island taken over by Anheuser-Busch

Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall talks to guests at a special tasting event in Seattle last June. Greg will be stepping down.

Back in the 1990s, Redhook made an agreement with Anheuser-Busch. Some people still cannot forgive Redhook for bargaining with the devil, but that deal was far from a take-over. You’re an idiot if you don’t understand that. It was a long time ago. Water under the bridge.

Last summer I was talking to a friend of mine who has worked in the craft beer industry since its inception in the 1980s. At that time, he was a Vice President of blah blah blah for one of the nation’s largest craft breweries. I asked him what he thought about North American Brewers taking over Independent Brewers United (Magic Hat, Pyramid and MacTarnahan’s). I’ll never forget what he told me, “Kendall, you’re going to be amazed by what happens over the next few years. Some of the best-loved breweries are going to break your heart.”

Man, he was so serious when he said that. It was kind of ominous.

Today, Anheuser-Busch announced that they have purchased Goose Island Brewing. Ya, I probably said that wrong and I may even get a call from somebody’s PR and/or legal department, but I’m kind of depressed right now so I don’t care. It is what it is.

As craft beer has increased in popularity across the nation, we should not expect “the big boys” sit idly by and watch their sales diminish. They will want a piece of this pie. In other words, get used to it.

You can read more about the Goose Island takeover at Chicago Breaking Business.

Here’s the press release from Anheuser-Busch:


Chicago Small Brewer, Craft Brewers Alliance to Sell Stakes in Goose Island;
Expansion of Chicago Brewery Planned

CHICAGO (March 28, 2011) – Chicago-based Goose Island, one of the nation’s most‑respected and fastest-growing small brewers with sales concentrated throughout the Midwest, today announced it had agreed to be acquired by Anheuser‑Busch, its current distribution partner, in a move that will bring additional capital into Goose Island’s operations to meet growing consumer demand for its brands and deepen its Chicago and Midwest distribution.
Goose Island’s legal name is Fulton Street Brewery LLC (FSB).  Anheuser-Busch reached an agreement to purchase the majority (58 percent) equity stake in FSB from its founders and investors, held in Goose Holdings Inc. (GHI), for $22.5 million.  Craft Brewers Alliance Inc. (CBA), an independent, publicly traded brewer based in Portland, Ore., that operates Widmer Brothers, Redhook and Kona breweries, owns the remaining 42 percent of FSB and reached an agreement in principle to sell its stake in FSB to Anheuser-Busch for $16.3 million in cash.  Anheuser‑Busch holds a minority stake (32.25 percent) in CBA.
Goose Island sold approximately 127,000 barrels of Honkers Ale, 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Matilda and other brands in 2010.  To help meet immediate demand, an additional $1.3 million will be invested to increase Goose Island’s Chicago Fulton Street brewery’s production as early as this summer.
“Demand for our beers has grown beyond our capacity to serve our wholesale partners, retailers, and beer lovers,” said Goose Island founder and president John Hall, who will continue as Goose Island chief executive officer.  “This partnership between our extraordinary artisanal brewing team and one of the best brewers in the world in Anheuser-Busch will bring resources to brew more beer here in Chicago to reach more beer drinkers, while continuing our development of new beer styles.  This agreement helps us achieve our goals with an ideal partner who helped fuel our growth, appreciates our products and supports their success.”
Hall will continue to be responsible for Goose Island beer production and the expansion of Goose Island’s Chicago brewery, where production will continue and its business will still be based.
“The new structure will preserve the qualities that make Goose Island’s beers unique, strictly maintain our recipes and brewing processes,” Hall said.  “We had several options, but we decided to go with Anheuser‑Busch because it was the best.  The transaction is good for our stakeholders, employees and customers.”
Anheuser-Busch has distributed Goose Island brands since 2006 as part of an agreement with Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. of Portland, Ore., a co-founder of CBA, that provides Goose Island access to the network of independent wholesalers that distribute Anheuser-Busch beers.  Anheuser‑Busch also provides logistical support to all Anheuser‑Busch wholesalers distributing Goose Island and CBA beers as part of that agreement.
Wholesalers currently servicing retailers with Goose Island beers will continue to do so with no disruption in service.
“These critically acclaimed beers are the hometown pride of Chicagoans,” said Dave Peacock, president of Anheuser-Busch, Inc.  “We are very committed to expanding in the high‑end beer segment, and this deal expands our portfolio of brands with high-quality, regional beers.  As we share ideas and bring our different strengths and experiences together, we can accelerate the growth of these brands.”
Anheuser-Busch’s purchase of FSB is subject to customary closing conditions, including obtaining required regulatory approvals.  The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2011.
The two Goose Island brew pubs are not part of the deal, but will continue in operation, offering consumers an opportunity to sample Goose Island’s award-winning specialty beers and food selections.
As part of CBA’s agreement to sell its 42 percent block in FSB to Anheuser-Busch, in addition to cash, Anheuser-Busch will provide enhanced retail selling support for CBA brands, will reduce distribution fees payable by CBA to Anheuser‑Busch and will provide CBA additional flexibility with respect to future acquisitions and divestitures.
Founded by John Hall in 1988, Goose Island Beer Company is one of the Midwest’s first small breweries.  Located at 1800 W. Fulton St., Chicago, 312-226-1119,, Goose Island is acclaimed for creating world-class ales, including 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Honkers Ale, India Pale Ale, Matilda, Pere Jacques, Sofie and a wide variety of seasonal draft only and barrel-aged releases, including Bourbon County Stout, the original bourbon barrel-aged beer.
Based in St. Louis, Anheuser-Busch is the leading American brewer, holding a 48.3 percent share of U.S. beer sales to retailers.  The company brews the world’s largest-selling beers, Budweiser and Bud Light.  Anheuser-Busch also owns a 50 percent share in Grupo Modelo, Mexico’s leading brewer.  Anheuser-Busch is a major manufacturer of aluminum cans and has been a leading aluminum recycler for more than 30 years.  The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the leading global brewer, and continues to operate under the Anheuser-Busch name and logo.  For more information, visit www.anheuser‑
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  1. This has been in the making for a while. Ever since they signed that distribution deal and CBA took over the minority share. I had hopes that CBA might take them over, but alas, we got this result.

    Good for the Halls. They will finally make a good return from their hard work. I’m glad to see that they will still independently operate the pubs. You can’t blame someone for striking rich while the iron is hot.

  2. Disappointing, but not surprising. Big beer’s ventures, so far, into the craft market have been met with some resistance or backlash.

    Now, we’re seeing the next step – if all else fails, just buy an existing craft brand.

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