This week Chicago Magazine is asking the question – “Is Goose Island Still a Craft Beer?” The article is a review of a book, Barrel Aged Stout and Selling Out, by Josh Noel. When we spent two weeks in Chicago in 2010, one of the beers we tried was Goose Island.You can read that post here.
A year later InBev Anheuser Busch bought a controlling interest in the company. The sale was a huge issue in the beer blogging world partly because Goose island was a factor in the renaissance of brewing in Chicago. Noel’s book is about that controversy and explores how Goose Island fared under corporate ownership. For craft beer aficionados the issue was whether Goose Island could remain a craft beer if Anheuser Busch produced and owned it.
The answer to that question depends on what matters to you when you buy and drink a beer. If taste is your sole criteria and Goose Island continued to taste the way it did when John Hall brewed it than you won’t care about Anheuser Busch totally controls the company today.
Craft beers image is, however, based on more than taste. By definition, a craft beer is an authentic product brewed by small, independent brewers. For consumers who care about where and how a beer is made, In Bev Anheuser-Busch ownership could be a defining factor in whether or not to buy the beer.
The intervention of macro brewers into the craft brewing world remains controversial. The growth of some craft breweries such as Boston Beer has been another flash point. When does success remove a beer from the craft brewing fellowship? The Brewers Association has consistently changed its definition of craft beer to continue to include the bigger, more successful brewers.