Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Honk If You Like Goose Island/AB InBev

Sofie Belgian Style Ale by Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co. is one of my favorite beers( I have many), so when I first heard the news of AB InBev buying the company for $39 million, I was taken back some.  But, I reserved judgment and soaked in all the banter on the internet as beer enthusiasts weighed in with their thoughts: Mostly people upset, feeling betrayed and that Goose Island sold out.  That, and some sycophants kissing ass on Brewemaster Greg Hall’s Facebook page.  Or, at least it looks that way with no dissenting comments.
  Whether this sale is a good thing depends on where you are standing.  From Greg Hall’s perspective, it’s great.  He has provided financial freedom for he and his family virtually forever.   And hey, that’s all part of the American dream, so you can’t knock the man.  I don’t believe there are many amongst us, who if given the chance to make this Faustian deal, would do otherwise.  So, that should be the end of the debate right there, right?  But, of course, it’s not.
  This purchase will likely have an eventual ripple effect, in the form of cost cutting, layoffs, dumbing down of recipes, the large muscle of the AB InBev taking up even more shelf space and tap handles at retail outlets.  But the largest effect, in my opinion, is the resentment felt by loyal Goose Island customers, who had what they felt was an intimate relationship with an independent brewing company, an unspoken agreement, a hometown hero they could believe in and stand behind.  That was all ripped away in what was tantamount to a “Dear John” text message.
  For those of you who know me, you know I’m also a big Kid Rock fan and at the same time use the word tantamount.  Go figure.    What makes Kid Rock so popular (or not) is different for different people, but one of the things that has made him so huge is his immense loyalty to Detroit, his home state of Michigan, and the people of  Michigan, many of whom are working class, proud, resilient and most importantly loyal-to-a-fault people.  His fans when pressed to say why they like him, inevitably bring up his loyalty to the town and state, which produced him…even if they are not from Michigan.  People in Amsterdam get this.  Kid Rock gets this.  Michigan’s Bell’s Brewing Company gets this mutual loyalty concept.  Goose Island, in my opinion, didn’t get this.  Chicagoland believed in and supported Goose Island and look what they got for it.
  I believe Goose Island will over time limp off into the sunset and join the ranks of other AB InBev acquisitions such as Red Hook, and old Chicagoland favorites such as MeisterBrau and Old Style, whose time has past.  Gone, but not forgotten.  When’s the last time you saw someone drink a Red Hook, anyway?
  Whatever happens, other craft brewers, who are in the on-deck circle to be purchased by mega corporations will be learning vicariously, taking notes and Googling the word Faustian.

Farmhouse Ale Tour of Belgium & France

Take a moment to view this just completed video from my most recent Farmhouse Ale Tour of Belgium & France.  As you will see, we covered a lot of ground and had a lot of fun on this one.  The next one is Oct. 10-15, 2011, and I am now taking reservations.  Join us, won't you?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Zythos & Alvinne Beer Festivals!

I'm just back from leading the Great Zythos Beer Festival Tour of Belgium.  Where to begin?  First, a great group of beer hunters, some pictured here in Bruges.  Secondly, sunny weather.  Thirdly, two great beer festivals in one great tour.  Alvinne Craft Beer Festival in Avelgem, proved to be kinder, gentler and more intimate, with many creative, eventful, one-of-a-kind beers.  Zythos was a runaway train, but fun and exciting in its own right.  Both festivals, while very different, were incredible experiences.  We also visited Duvel, Halve Maan and Westvleteren.  Thank you to everyone, who took the tour.  I hope your beer made it home safely!