Goose Island Goes Big – Sells to Anheuser-Busch

The world of craft brewing is one that values independence, creativity and perseverance. However, for one craft brewer things are changing. Goose Island Beer Co, located in Chicago, is going big-time. No, they’re not rivaling Boston Beer Co. for their spot in the craft beer market. They’re actually going to become part of Anheuser-Busch. The big beer company is buying out Goose Island for almost $40 million.

The move is not really that much of a surprise for most people who keep an eye on the industry. Anheuser-Busch has actually owned a share of Goose Island for several years (since 2006). They have also been instrumental in helping to distribute the company’s beers throughout different markets. It is big news though because of another factor, though. Goose Island will be one of the few craft breweries to be actually bought out by a major manufacturer. While there are other small breweries working with companies like Michelob and Budweiser, these are usually wholly owned subsidiaries and were often founded as part of the parent company.

Why is Anheuser-Busch making the investment? Simply put, it makes good business sense. As major beer producers in the US have experienced lower and lower sales, they are looking for better and newer ways to remain profitable. Since craft breweries are doing so well, it makes sense to make the move. It’s a case of the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. 

The move will cause changes in Goose Island. Greg Hall will be stepping down as head brewer to start his own projects later in the year. He will be replaced by Brett Porter, previously of Deschutes Brewery in Oregon. Hall and his partners will also maintain control of Goose Island’s two brewpubs in Chicago.

While the move certainly makes sense for both Goose Island and Anheuser-Busch, it might not be the last of such moves. The increasing pressure on big breweries to remain profitable in the face of huge advances made by the craft beer industry will undoubtedly make other such purchases attractive to major players in the industry. What small breweries might be next on the list? No one really knows but it should be an exciting thing to watch. It will also be interesting to see just how A-B operates their new acquisition and whether it will really make a difference to the larger company’s overall profitability and (ultimately) survival.

Posted on April 10, 2011 .