Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Because we should probably say something about the Goose Island news

Of the two of us MBB bloggers, I'm probably not the person to be commenting on today's big beer story that Anheuser-Busch has acquired Goose Island--mainly that I'm indifferent to the news, both as a consumer and general observer, but I'll share what little I have to say before the story goes stale.

As a beer drinker, I'm not terribly concerned how the acquisition will affect the quality of the product because a) I expect its change to be minimal and b) I don't think much of it to begin with. Yes, some of Goose Island's specialty brews are quite good--in fact, I gave a very positive review of one in my last post--and I suppose it's possible that these will be lost or ruined. But I doubt this very much for reasons I'll mention in a second.

If you're worried about the quality of the flagship brews, you should have already moved onto better beers anyway. I don't say that as a snob but as a friend. I've had worse dishwater wheats than 312, but that's the best I can say; to cop the tired pizza analogy, the IPA is the Papa John's in the heart of Dagoville; and don't get me started on Green Line. For Chicagoans who lament the loss of a local brand, the alternatives are hardly lacking. (With--shill alert!--another on the way.)

But that's all beside the point that $39 million is a whole lotta wort, or yeast, or whatever, and if I had great brand recognition and a so-so product in a market with a swelling pool of competitors, I'd be looking to cash out too. Ironically, craft beer going mainstream is as much Goose Island's doing as it stands to be its undoing the more the palate of the beer-drinking public matures. In the meantime, it's still a nice bridge between A-B's current market and their future.

Anheuser-Busch knows that commercials and stadium contracts can't protect them when taste and choice trump image, as declining sales have already proven. They've seen the trends in food and dining and realize that the only way to survive is to diversify, or at least straddle the hoity toity-hoi polloi divide. A high-profile craft was missing from that portfolio; now they have it. Good for them.

For Goose Island, the timing seems appropriate, with competition creeping up and their microbrew cred bordering on gone. I don't know their motivations, but if ambition means accepting when you've become the establishment, maybe that's what Goose Island's done by selling the brand.

1 comment:

  1. I am totally with you on 312, but I think their IPA and regular seasonal offerings like Green Line are quite solid and stand out at places with places that have otherwise minimal craft offerings (I drank a good deal of Green Line at Schoolyard the past two Fridays).

    I guess their distribution deal with A-B was a precursor for this inevitable move, but in an ideal world they would take the role of a Sam Adams and remain independent and one of the leaders of the craft movement.

    This undoubtedly affects me more, as I am definitely the bigger Goose Island fan and also the bigger bleeding heart that would allow this move to modify my decision making based on the fact that Goose Island is now part of the big, bad beer conglomerate.