Sunday, January 01, 2006

Will Goose Island hop into bed with A-B?

Goose Island may partner with maker of Budweiser, by Ameet Sachdev (Chicago Tribune staff reporter; Published December 21, 2005 … thanks to Jay Tyler for the link).

Change may be brewing at Goose Island Beer Co.

The beer industry has been buzzing for weeks about talks between Chicago's largest microbrewery and Anheuser-Busch Cos., fostering speculation the St. Louis beer giant may be interested in buying an ownership stake in Goose Island.

Several readers have asked for the Curmudgeon’s opinion on this news item, no doubt seeking to prod me into unleashing one of my trademark anti-Budweiser screeds.

For now, I refuse to bite.

Well, perhaps a nibble.

It remains true that any company with a 50% combined market share and a long history of predatory behavior cannot be trusted to adhere to any stated aim of benign partnership with a company so much smaller than itself, but we already knew that, didn’t we?

If Goose Island, a perfectly respectable microbrewery with high standards of quality, albeit one that no longer is “cutting edge,” decides to don its trunks and hop into the pool for a dog paddle with the sharks, that’s its business – and a decision that may profoundly alter its business.

Anyone remember Celis? Didn’t think so.

At the same time, a market’s a market, and perhaps a deal with the devil is the one that brings an equitable return for Goose Island’s owners. If you own a business, you’ll probably agree with me that it always is for sale. Everyone actually does have a price. It may be so high that there's little chance of anyone ever paying it, but it's there, just the same.

At least lovers of good beer – the type of beer that Anheuser-Busch generally eschews – have many more options than before when it comes to avoiding the leaden monopoly of the nation’s largest producer of carbonated urine.

Like I said … no rants out of me.

Stylistically, Goose Island steers a safe, entry-level path, but they’ll always have a place in my heart, as the original Goose Island brewpub in Chicago was the first such American establishment I ever had the pleasure of visiting (in 1992).

Personally, I hope they don’t make a mistake by dancing with the 800-pound gorilla.

If they do, and it ends badly at the hands of the bean counters, at least we have numerous insurance policies, i.e., microbreweries, to fall back on.


Stan Hieronymus said...

You wouldn't call Matilda cutting edge?

(Not that I think the list ends with that beer.)

Prosit - Stan

The New Albanian said...

I've heard it's good, and I'm sure there are more.

But I believe the point holds. They just added a wheat beer, right?

Funny how perceptions change, though. What would have been revolutionary once now seems mainstream, even though the majority of Americans never drink any of them.

Good to hear from you.