Stephen Beaumont’s World of Beer recently posted a an essay from Micheal Roper, owner of Chicago’s Hopleaf, which has been one of the best beer bars in the city for many years. The essay is long, but well-worth reading. Most people are just ripping Goose Island for the deal, and understandably so in some ways. Micheal has been pouring beer from Goose Island for a long time and has a unique perspective. Being from the Chicago area myself, news of this deal was hard to take. The original Goose Island brewpub was one of the first breweries I ever visited and the Goose Island brand has always been one of the limited sources of Chicago beer pride for me out on the West coast whenever I see it. Reading Micheal’s piece makes me feel a bit better about the deal. I still think it is unfortunate that AB was the most attractive solution for them, but I won’t pretend to understand the deliberation that the Halls went through to make this decision.
Following are a couple excerpts from the essay, but make sure to read the entire piece; even if you don’t fully agree with everything he’s saying it is a solid read.
AB/Inbev knows what they are getting with Goose Island and what they are getting is a brewery that does what they can’t do. They can’t make beers like Matilda, Sofie, Juliette, Bourbon County Stout, Père Jacques or Madame Rose. They can’t even make anything like Goose Island IPA or Oatmeal Stout. They have given up trying and purchasing a Brewery like Goose is more a symbol of surrender than might be obvious. This is the only way that they can bring good beer into their portfolio. It is a smart move for them. The last thing that they will want to do is to screw up a good thing.
Goose Island needs a new brewery. Their Fulton Street Brewery is cobbled together in rented space never designed for brewing. It is not nearly big enough and is land locked. It will cost 50 million dollars to build a new brewery in Chicago. In times like these, I know better than most from my own expansion financing woes, that capital is hard to come by. There are investors who would love to provide capital but they bring obligations and expectations that are often no less onerous than a takeover by someone like AB/Inbev. They could be far worse. Do we know anything about who invests in the expansion of any of the craft breweries that are growing now? I don’t think so.