The Daily Parker

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Not-so-crafty Goose Island

Since its purchase by InBev (Anheuser Busch) two years ago, Goose Island Brewing Co. has increased production significantly by brewing beer in other states. While this does allow them to produce more beer and to sell it nationwide, it has also changed the beer. Green Line Pale Ale now comes from Baldwinsville, N.Y., which I'm pretty sure doesn't have an El. Flagship 312 Urban Wheat Ale comes from Baldwinsville (area code 315) and Fort Collins, Colo. (area code 970). Since water is the principal ingredient of beer, I wonder how this could fail to change the formula.

Goose Island CEO Andrew Goler says it doesn't:

“Anheuser-Busch is letting us do our own thing,” says [Goeler], who took over as Goose Island's CEO on Jan. 1, replacing founder John Hall. “I'm not getting directives.”

When Belgium's Anheuser-Busch InBev swallowed Goose Island for $38.8 million in 2011, it provided a relief valve for an overwhelmed brewing facility. (The companies were intertwined in 2006 when Goose Island signed a distribution deal with Anheuser-Busch.)

Moving production for three of Goose Island's most popular beers out of Chicago, a decision that enthusiasts worried was the beginning of the end for the craft brand, solved a long-standing problem of pent-up demand. Top sellers are now brewed at Anheuser-Busch InBev facilities in Fort Collins, Colo., and Baldwinsville, N.Y., an expansion that allows Goose Island bottles to be carried in all 50 states.

"I think there were some irrational doubts about what's going to happen to Goose Island," says Greg Hall, 47, Goose Island's former brewmaster and son of its founder. "It's not like they're trying to make India Pale Ale and Bud Light comes out."

No, but it's no longer the same IPA, either.

Large corporations tend to digest smaller acquisitions. And Goose Island is no longer part of the Craft Brewers Association, because it's no longer a craft brew. We'll see how long Goose Island retains its independence.

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