WILL THIS GOOSE LAY A GOLDEN EGG?
Craft beer may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Anheuser-Busch, but the brewing giant would like to change that perception. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s US unit is buying fast-growing Chicago craft brewer Goose Island for $38.8 million, one of several moves by the company to amp up its investment in high-end beers. As sales of mass-market lagers continue to stagnate, the Budweiser maker has been seeking to capitalize on rising consumer demand for small-batch craft beers and other high-margin brews. In addition to buying Goose Island, the company said it plans to increase by double-digit percentages this year its advertising spending on its Shock Top wheat ale, Stella Artois, Landshark Lager, and other specialty brews.
Anheuser agreed to pay $22.5 million to buy the 58% of Fulton Street Brewery LLC, the legal name for Goose Island, owned by its founders and investors. Anheuser will also pay $16.3 million for the 42% of the company that is controlled by Craft Brewers Alliance Inc., a publicly traded brewer in Oregon. Goose Island’s founder and president, John Hall, will stay on as Goose Island’s Chief Executive Officer and oversee an expansion of its brewery. Anheuser executives have built a relationship with Goose Island since 2OO6, when the larger company’s wholesaler network began distributing its brands. The Goose Island deal presents its share of risk as loyal craft beer drinkers may be alienated by the notion of A-B InBev owning a respected small brewer. No doubt the hope is that Goose Island will appeal to more mainstream drinkers interested in upgrading their brew choices. A-B isn’t alone among big brewers trying to take advantage of the increasing popularity of specialty beers. Last year, MillerCoors created a subsidiary called Tenth & Blake Beer Co. to focus on craft brews like its Blue Moon and imports such as Peroni.