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AB-InBev Serves $38.8 Million, Goose Island Binges On Profit

For those of you in the beer world who keep tabs on the  Brewers Association or the craft beer scene, you may have heard: Goose Island, a craft beer brewery, has just been bought by Anheuser-Busch (newly acquired by InBev).  What this means is that Goose Island beer could turn into the same watered down piss that AB already brews and bottles.  Typically the bigger company will sacrifice good ingredients like real hops, malt and barely to replace it with cost effective extracts and artificial flavors.  Speaking of beer tasting like piss, the Brewmaster  Greg Hall himself brewed his own concoction of beer the other night. Huffington Post reports:

It’s been a real up-and-down couple of weeks for Greg Hall.

The brewmaster at Goose Island announced in late March that he’d be leaving that role, as the Chicago-based craft brewer was bought up by Anheuser-Busch for a hefty $39 million. He’ll be leaving for an undisclosed new project, according to statements at the time.

And last Friday night, Hall celebrated his 45th birthday at Bangers and Lace, a self-described craft beer and sausage bar that Time Out Chicago recently named its Best New Bar.

Unfortunately, according to the Chicago Tribune, the celebration got a bit out of hand. In a conversation with the Tribune on Monday, Hall didn’t deny accusations made by the Bangers staff that he urinated in two beer glasses and left them at the bar.

Looks like someone partied a little too hard.  The intoxicated Brewmaster made his father’s brewery (of 23 years) become known for more than just beer the other night while celebrating his 45th Birthday at Wicker Parks Bangers & Lace.  Folks, this is quite the drunken tale.

Hall unveiled a brew all his own: pissing in two pint glasses. After throwing a few back Hall proceeded to go behind the counter of the bar and proceeded to urinate in two glasses, leaving them on the bar.  At this point Hall probably should have discreetly left, but he had to be escorted from the premises by staff to his car (hopefully he wasn’t driving).

Yes we can all laugh at the silly over-the-top drunken escapades of a man threw one too many back, but there is a bitter note to this story.  What beer lover might not realize is that Hall’s company has just sold out to a corporate giant which has a monopoly on almost half of the beer industry.  As Huffington Post points out though, craft breweries like Goose Island are doing well, but I guess if I was offered that much money I would probably allow myself to be bought too.

John Hall, the head of Goose Island, said that the company was quickly outgrowing its capacities, having to limit production of some of its most popular beers, and that the deal with Anheuser-Busch would help the company continue to expand. “This agreement helps us achieve our goals with an ideal partner who helped fuel our growth, appreciates our products and supports their success,” Hall said, in a statement on the buyout.

Looking at the real numbers, small breweries are popping up all across the country, the BA lists 85 breweries just in Oregon. Understandably Goose Island was growing but as the rest of the HP article points out, small breweries are gaining attention while bigger companies are losing it.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, craft brewing has been an exceptionally solid performer in an otherwise unexceptional beer market in recent years. Craft beer sales were up 11 percent last year, while the broader industry was down one percent.

I do not disagree with smaller breweries expanding, but typically with these sorts of expansions in the beer industry, it leads to a more generic product using lower quality ingredients just to cut costs.  It also moves the flow of money from within a state economy into the wider commercial economy, which results in states losing money to outside sources.  Whether it is sourcing ingredients for the product from farther away or giving jobs to workers who are out-of-state, it hurts the local economy.

When a consumer buys beer from a small or local brewery they are more likely to receive a fresher, higher quality product because the ingredients used in the beer were sourced locally (fresh is good). Sourcing ingredients locally means that brewers are supporting local farmers, creating a co-op effect within the community.  Radical thoughts: local people stimulating local economy by buying products that are made locally.  I am sorry for the locavore commotion train, but the dollar signs make sense.

  1. kayla says:

    Beer patron you are informed and you do know what you are talking about and I think that you represent your opinion quite eloquently. It is great that you yourself are a beer enthusiast and actually brew (the two you mentioned sound great, especially the aggressively hopped brown ale). It was not my intention with this post to bash people that drink mass produced beer. I understand the desire to enjoy a light lager on a hot day, I only intend to point out the mechanism of the industry and the tendency of big companies.

    As I said I myself am a fan of Goose Island beer and the ‘Sofie’ is amazing on a hot day. I also understand that big companies emphasize product imagery over the taste of their beer and that should resonate with all beer drinkers. I only meant to point out that Goose Island has a good product and I don’t want to see their beers’ flavor profiles change. I agree that the big companies produce a consistent product, but part of the reason why I enjoy craft beer is the fact that they do differ; in flavor profile, sediment and color, yes this is inconsistent, but it also highlights where the different ingredients came from.

    Like drinking wine, vintners will tell you that depending on grapes, soil and climate, the flavor of the wine will change. The barrels in which they are aged also have an effect, very much in the same way craft beer differs. You know this from homebrewing. I am not on a high a horse, but I do appreciate supporting my local and state economy by purchasing local craft beers. Consumers should drink a beer that tastes good to them, but flavor is no comparison and that was the intention of the post. I will be featuring a more detailed article in the release of the magazine. I will be following up with more details about taxes and dollars in future posts. Your reading and comments are appreciated.


  2. Betz says:

    Fact: If AB / Macrobreweries produced a crappy product, people would stop buying it. But they don’t. The fact is, macro-breweries like Ab / InBev do an AMAZING job: producing a product that alot of people like, producing it on a scale unfathomable by many craft breweries, and (here’s the really tricky part) producing it consistently. You can be pretty much assured that a Budweiser or a Heinekin that is poured in Portland OR will pretty much taste the same as one poured in Bali, Indonesia (And they do taste pretty much the same). These companies have discovered a winning recipe and process – so they spend most of their money on advertising and gimmicks (my beer can turns blue, so I know its cold!), rather than mess with the recipe.

    Its easy to criticize the larger macros living in the NW (aka ‘beervana’), but I would call all of the people who look down at something like a Bud or Coors as ‘piss water’ a snob, and would kindly tell them to get off their high horse.

    The proper term for ingredients like corn or rice in the mash is called ‘adjuncts’, and they are actually necessary for those kinds of beers to achieve their dryness. They are more crisp and clean than all-malt based beers (think Stella Artouis, St. Pauli Girl, Steinlager, or any other green-bottle euro-lager). These ingredients ARE cheaper than malted barley, but I don’t believe that price of ingredients directly translates to quality. There are lots of examples of “craft” beer styles that use these ingredients to achieve dryness or higher alcohol levels in the finished beer. Many Belgian ales, for example, use direct cane sugar – cheaper yet – right in the boil to do the same thing, and these are very well respected breweries like Chimay or Duvel.

    I am a homebrewer: I currently have an aggressively hopped brown ale, as well as a German smoked-malt Rauchebier, in my fermenters at home; I love my craft breweries as much as the next person, and the fact that many of the best in the country are just down the block from my house is awesome. But to be honest, one of my favorite beers is a PBR – preferably drank out of the can instead of a glass. Lets be real – these beers may lose in a taste contest when compared to a Ninkasi or Stone IPA – but its only relatively speaking; take away the comparison, and what you have is still a very drinkable, very good product, especially refreshing on a hot day.

  3. Kayla Heffner says:

    I knew that Widmer already owned a percentage of shares in the company and I plan on publishing future blog posts with more of these concrete facts and statistics. It is not my assumption that AB will automatically change Goose Island beer, but history has also shown that when macro-breweries take over craft breweries, quality does go down. There is a great and informative bolg post about it here: I would also like to quote another article from

    “Ingredients of mass-produced lagers and other brewery conditioned beers are arguably chosen for reasons of profit rather than flavour. For example, rice or maize can be mixed with the malted barley to reduce costs. Mass production, the addition of preservatives and other chemicals, and the reduction of the quality of the ingredients, all reduce the flavour of the product, not surprisingly. Rather like cheap supermarket tomatoes – they just don’t taste like the ones your granddad grows in his greenhouse. Real ale is like your granddad’s tomatoes. Mass-produced beer is by comparison like the cheap tomatoes from the supermarket, only not so healthy for you.

    Brewery conditioned beers: lagers, ‘bright’ bitters, stouts, etc., are ready to be served upon arrival at the pub. The kegs stand upright in the cellar, and the beer is pumped to a font-head at the bar counter, normally by gas pressure from CO2 cannisters, (known as ‘top pressure’, because the beer is under constant pressure, which forces the beer up through the pipes and out of the font-head tap when the lever is pulled). The effect of the top pressure often taints the taste of the beer (some would say this is a good thing), and to produce a very ‘gassy’ beer, which for some is not pleasant to drink nor to deal with its after-effects.

    Interestingly, mass-produced ‘brewery conditioned’ beers – pretty well all the well-known lagers and bitters – are commonly marketed by emphasising their strength or the brand imagery – very rarely the actual taste.”
    Link to full article here:

    I would just like to emphasize that it is widely accepted within the beer community that there is no comparison when it comes to mass produced beer over craft beer. The quality of a craft beer is better. If a person prefers the taste of piss water, I have no problem with them drinking that, but for me I prefer a Ninkasi, Laurelwood, Hope Valley, Rogue, Oakshire or Stone. I also enjoy Goose Island’s ‘Sofie’ Belgian style ale and I truly hope it doesn’t change.

  4. JB says:

    Not too sure you should jump to the assumption that AB-InBev would go about cheapening the product they just bought (or just bought more of: AB has a minority stake in Craft Brewer’s Alliance, a previous part-owner of GIB. As their history of investment in Red Hook & Widmer Brothers shows, they only sell original piss-water, leaving their craft brewery investments fairly alone.

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