Goose Island sold to Anheuser-Busch

March 28, 2011 4:11:39 PM PDT
Chicago craft brewery Goose Island is being purchased by beer giant Anheuser-Busch. What does the sale mean for one of the city's most popular beers?

Fans of Goose Island's 312 Urban Wheat, Matilda and other brews are taking a wait and see approach to the news.

"It would be nice to have something that's still Chicago's own. And a big corporation coming in is obviously gonna change that," said Armando Delgado, Goose Island beer fan.

"I get nervous about the 'big three' touching any of the craft brewers," said Greg Nelson, Goose Island beer fan. "Once you get anyone involved that's more profit driven as opposed to looking at the quality of the beer, you're going to have some changes."

Anheuser-Busch will pay a total of nearly $39 million for Goose Island, which sold 127,000 barrels in 2010. Anheuser-Busch has been distributing Goose Island brands -- such as 312, India Pale Ale and Matilda -- since 2006.

The sale will bring additional capital into goose island's operations to meet growing consumer demand. Anheuser-Busch said $1.3 million will be invested to increase production at the brewery on West Fulton.

Goose Island executives assured consumers that the integrity of their critically acclaimed beers will remain the same. John Hall, the company's president, said "the new structure will preserve the qualities that make Goose Island's beer unique, and strictly maintain our recipes and brewing processes."

Josh Deth worked at Goose Island for several years before he started his own brewery, Revolution Brewing on North Milwaukee.

"I think the smart move is for Anheuser-Busch to keep the freedom there in the hands of the brewers at Goose Island. They've been doing a great job, making excellent beer, and they can do that within that kind of larger corporate environment," Deth said.

With the growing demand for craft beers, Goose Island is a feather in Anheuser-Busch's cap.

"Craft is where the growth is. In the market, people want flavor and variety. Anheuser-Busch's sales are declining while craft sales are up so it makes sense for their pocketbook to make this kind of move," Deth said.

Goose Island beer is the largest brewery in Illinois. With this acquisition, products will reach an even wider audience.

The transaction should be finalized in June.

Goose Island was founded by Hall in 1988 as one of the first small breweries in the U.S. The brewery is located at 1800 West Fulton Street in Chicago and has two restaurants- one in Lakeview and one in Old Town.