This Goose's for You!!
By Chuck Sudo in Food on May 18, 2006 3:28PM
Well, Chicagoist certainly didn't see this one coming. Even though both sides are not commenting, the Tribune reports today that Anheuser-Busch is thisclose to purchasing a stake in Goose Island Beer Company. It's the latest twist on talks that have been going on for months.
The stake, reported to be up to 35 percent, would solve problems for both parties. For Goose Island a deal would solve distribution and marketing problems they've been facing since they terminated their sales and marketing agreement with United States Beverage LLC two years ago. Since then they've been doing everything in-house, coming up with very creative ways to promote the Goose Island brand and move product. And they've been doing an admirable job.
For Anheuser-Busch, it gives them a pronounced presence in the microbrewery market through an increasingly popular brewery with excess production (Goose Island produced over 50,000 barrels of beer last year). Anheuser-Busch currently has similar equity stakes in and distribution rights to Red Hook brewery and Widmer Brewing; a deal with Goose Island would allow them to profit from a quality beer without, you know, actually brewing it themselves.
One question Chicagoist asks is what a pending deal would mean for Union Beverage Company, Goose Island's current distributor. Union and United States Beverage fall under the same corporate umbrella. A few years back, there was this whole series of moves among the state's liquor wholesalers. Union Beverage lost a significant portion of its distribution. It's not a stretch to say that Goose Island beer helped keep Union afloat while they scrambled for new distribution deals with other companies. They aren't about to let go of their distibution rights without a fight.
So don't be surprised if, in the near future, you see an inebriatred goose leading a team of clydesdales down Fulton Steet, straining under the weight of pulling a real beer.
11:30 a.m. UPDATE: Chicagoist just received a phone call from Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall, who wanted to clarify some items in this post.
Mr. Hall wanted readers to know that the Tribune didn't call them for comment on their story and that, contrary to what the Tribune reported, Goose Island is staying in business as an independent brewery.