AB Inbev

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.


The Belly of the Beast. In a world, where...

This photo would be:
A) A bunch of brewery workers on break.
B) The cast of Glee.
C) A bunch of exchange students from North Dakota State University touring the AB Inbev brewery in Leuven.

Correct answer, "C."

As it turns out, the most interesting thing today about touring the home of Stella Artois was the people on the tour (who knew?).  These lucky future leaders of America are beginning a five-week exchange program in Antwerp.  I asked them (hypothetically, of course) what their favorite beer was in North Dakota and they all said, "Bud Light."  After five weeks in beer paradise (legal drinking age is 16), their re-entry into the Bud Light world of Fargo will be a difficult one.  Damn you Belgium, you ruined them for the rest!
Bob, Carole, Simon & Suzanna

I also met a fun group of international exchange students studying in Leuven.  This was an organized event for them to all get to know each other better.  Afterwards, a group of them invited me to have dinner with them, which was  a great time to meet people from around the globe, get to know them and hear their world views. I met students from Iceland, Netherlands, Serbia, Macedonia and Iran.  What great reminder that we are all one planet and one world.  And, at the end of the day (or brewery tour), we are all more similar than different.  I  thank them for their hospitality, window into their lives and  wish them much luck in their studies, careers and lives.  So what did I learn?  Well, just to mention two things, Iceland's currency has devalued by 80% and McDonald's closed all its restaurants there.  "Ladies and gentlemen, McDonald's has left the country!"