Chicago Tunes’ Editor in Chief tries to make sense of this Goose Island business

I was totally disheartened this week to grab a Redeye on the way to the El and discover that Anheuser-Busch, maker of beers I wouldn’t touch even in college, would purchase Goose Island for $38.8 million.

I mean, when’s the last time you saw a total stranger walking around with a Bud Light and your first thought happened to be: “Hey, I wanna be their friend”? Probably never, because they clearly have a shitty taste in beer.

You’re skeptical about what this has to do with music, so I’ll cut to it here: Goose Island sold out, and I’m wielding that same feeling I get when a band I like releases a crap album because they gave up total creative control for a little more green. You know, the bands who think they’re doing their listeners a service by signing on to a label that has name talent.

All of that’s a twisted lie, of course, as nobody wins here. Save for the artists, maybe, because they can now afford to live in style and without conviction because they have way more money then they did a week ago. Because music is about the money, or wait, do I have that wrong?

I moved to Chicago in June, and in that time, Goose Island quickly came to be a favorite of mine among the local brews. Its selections, on the whole, tasted good. And, like I do with this blog, it promoted the city. I, at least, felt good about drinking it because I knew I was supporting local business.

All of that gets thrown out by this deal. And I’ll prove it to you by picking apart this Chicago Tribune article:

When John Hall opened Goose Island brewery in 1988, craft beer sales were too small for most organizations to track. Now, craft beer accounts for nearly 8 percent of U.S. sales, or $7.6 billion.

Awesome.

On Monday, Anheuser-Busch, the nation’s biggest brewer, said it would buy Chicago’s Goose Island for $38.8 million, reflecting the growing demand for craft-style beers as the major brewers have seen some big sales declines.

In what industry isn’t this true? Small guys make bank on a great idea, so the aging dinosaurs take the credit (and the profits) by buying it up. Pathetic.

Anheuser-Busch, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, of Belgium, will invest $1.3 million to expand Goose Island’s brewing capacity. The move comes as many popular craft brewers are faced with cutting their distribution areas because of the popularity of their brews, or even selling out.

[…]

He added that the company had to discontinue certain beers, such as Hex Nut Brown Ale, Oatmeal Stout and Christmas Ale.

“These are beers people liked, but we had to drop because we didn’t have capacity,” Hall, 68, said.

Bull. Shit. No company in its right mind would discontinue a product because it sold well. “Hey, a lot of people seem to like this ale!” “Well, you know what we have to then? We should discontinue it.”

If Goose Island truly cared about “beers people liked,” then they would find a way.

“Some people will think this is not the best news,” said Greg Hall, Goose Island brewmaster.

Truth.

Still, with Anheuser-Busch’s backing and increased distribution, “There are a heck of a lot of people who have never heard of Goose Island who will be able to try us,” he said.

Who the fuck cares? I, for one, am totally OK with Goose Island being of the region. I don’t need friends in bumfuck, USA, telling me they like Goose Island because it has a pretty label.

I can appreciate a company that appreciates the business they have, and then letting that be enough. The same is true of music. I don’t need a thousand people to tell me they like A Singleman Affair or Bears of Blue River because I can like them, respectively. My taste doesn’t require that kind of validation. I know what I like and that’s just it.

Last fall, the Hall family announced Goose Island was having difficulty meeting demand and that it was outsourcing some production to New Hampshire. In February, the family confirmed it hired an investment banker to try to line up financing to add brewing capacity.

Perhaps I’m an enigma, but is it radical to think that the American dream of “bigger, faster, more! more! more!” is a crock of shit? Can we be satisfied what’s comfortable or mom and pop?

Anheuser-Busch had promised the Halls that it would not to make major changes to the brewer.

“You don’t want to change what’s working,” Anheuser-Busch President Dave Peacock said in an interview. “It would be crazy to change the taste of their products.”

I think this is just A-B admitting how awful a campaign “The makers of Bud Light now make Goose Island Summertime” would be.

Goose Island products will also have access to Anheuser-Busch’s marketing muscle. And while “you’re not going to see Goose Island in the Super Bowl anytime soon,” Peacock said, he does expect the company to look for more retail merchandising opportunities and broader sampling.

There’s the B-word: broad. I figured we’d get there soon. Broad is what has kept the major broadcasters alive so long, but look at the kind of product they’re now putting out. Same goes for music: Name a band that has succeeded because of its broadness.

There’s a great thing about Santah’s Facebook that gets me thinking rationally at times like these. Under Record Label, it reads: “Fuck off.”

That’s about right, Santah! If only we all thought that way.

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About Eric

Hello there. Email your things to chicagotunes[at]gmail[dot]com.
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