Monday, March 28, 2011

Skinny Goose

Last week I was watching Good Morning America, watching may be a strong word, GMA was on the television and I was doing something on the laptop. Bethenny from one of those Housewives shows was the guest and she was talking about her Skinny Girl line of liquors. I paid some attention to this because coincidentally Stella had brought home a bottle of Skinny Girl Margarita the night before. I'd heard of the brand but didn't know it had anything to do with Bethenny. When she was asked why she sold it she said the "skinny" liquor thing was getting stolen left and right and in order to for her brand to come out on top she had to sell to someone big and she found the biggest baddest liquor company and sold to them. I thought to myself and actually mentioned to Stella yesterday that her move made perfect sense but wouldn't happen in the beer world because it wouldn't be "cool" for right or wrong.

So imagine my surprise when I heard the news that Goose Island was selling to AB InBev. My Twitter feed was filled with anger, disappointment and with the exception of Mike from StL Hops everyone was proclaiming they were done with Goose Island. I don't get this. I don't drink beer because it comes from a small brewery or because the brewery's family owned. I drink it because it tastes good. When that changes for a certain beer, I'll quit drinking it. When Goose Island Sofie no longer dances on my tongue exciting my taste buds, I'll quit drinking it.

What this merger or acquisition will do, however, is allow Goose Island to brew more beer. Maybe now Night Stalker won't be so hard to find. Maybe they can unretire Nut Brown Ale and Oatmeal Stout. Maybe they can brew even more great Belgian beers which haven't been beermagined yet, I mean, after all, they're part of a Belgian company now, may as well dance with the one that brung ya.

So while you're hand washing your 8 different kinds of beer glasses and drinking a beer you traded for on the Internet maybe you can look at the bright side of this. Good beer will be available to more people. You don't have to drink it anymore if it doesn't make you feel cool anymore. Maybe, just maybe, this will bring more people to better beer which can only benefit those breweries you think are still cool. Like Bethenny the owners of Goose just wanted to reach more people. This was the best way for them. As long as Sofie still tastes good, I'll keep drinking it.


  1. From what I understand, AB InBev already had a large stake in Goose Island (along with the rest of the Craft Brewer's Alliance: Red Hook, Widmer Brothers, Kona). They weren't a "small" brewer to begin with, not with the distribution power of AB behind them. Anyone that refuses to purchase the product now because of the buy out needs to realize that they've been helping to line the pockets of AB InBev executives for years.

  2. The one thing that really struck me with the sale is that Greg Hall will step down while his brother will stay CEO. I'm curious the reason behind that except perhaps early retirement. While not a fan of the session beers, I do love all the stout lines and don't foresee them changing such a big part of GI's identity. (unless all the beer-snob fanboys, spurn GI now and they stop selling)

    Like Nick said with so many of the Craft Brewer's Alliance brands having some sort of deal with AB INBEV, I was shocked to overhear an large KS liquor store employee talk someone out of buying O'fallon "5day IPA" because they are owned by AB-INBEV. I'm sure the Caradonna's who are looking for investors would love to know that. Ironically he directed them to Bridgeport a CBA member.

  3. Nick, depends on how you define large stake. AB Inbev owns 40% of CBA which owned 25% of GI.

    100% is a lot more than 10% and, more to the point, is a controlling share (obviously).

  4. James-
    Greg is actually John Hall's son. And as to the question of Greg leaving, he'll still be on a board directing what GI does with their beers. I mean, the guy just got a large sum of money after working at the same place for two decades. If ever there were a time to change things up...

  5. I would define 25% of CBA a large stake (or 10% of Goose Island as a whole, but stock ownership doesn't really work that way). This is mainly because of the distribution deals. If Goose Island or any of the other brands did something to offend The Man, they could easily be buried. AB, for instance, could become unhappy with the cost of a product, the overall taste, whatever, and simply threaten to cut distribution or severely limit shelf space. While this would be an example of AB cutting off it's nose just to spite the face and lead to a slight profit loss, a tactic such as this could keep CBA more in line with the desires of AB.

  6. Correction, I meant to state 40 % of CBA. Derrp.

  7. I don't understand the conflation of drinking beer out of style-specific glassware with being upset at this purhase by AB-InBev. Also, you seem to be dismissing the right of people to "vote with their wallets" in terms of what kinds companies that they want to support by conflating political concerns with "feeling cool." You've got a point here, but you obscure it with ad hominem. Disappointing article.

    As for me, I do worry about the move. Hopefully AB has the good sense to let the brand be the brand. But I think it's a logical worry that AB-Inbev would have the brewery brew more barrels of 312 and Honker's Ale at the expense of the more expensive, time-intensive beers like the special varieties of BCBS.

  8. Thanks Chimp, with so many family breweries out there its hard to keep track of brothers, sons and daughters.

  9. Barry, I didn't mean to make light of valid concerns such as yours. But, what I was reading this morning from people saying Goose was dead to them, led me to address the issue of taste. I don't get what ownership has to do with how good a beer is. Nothing changed, it could change, but Matilda's going to taste the same June 1 as it does today. If it does change then you can write off Goose Island.

    Vote with your wallet all you want, but don't be completely unfair about it. Maybe I'm just optomistic by nature but my vision of this being a net positive seems much more likely than your vision of very valid concerns.