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The Honk Heard Round The World: Goose Island One Year After Sale

on 16/04/12 at 11:40 am


In March 2011, Goose Island Beer Co. shocked its hometown and sent ripples of disbelief across the beer world with the announcement that it had agreed to a $38.8 million acquisition by the world’s biggest brewing company, Anheuser-Busch InBev. A year later, we wanted to find out where this Goose’s soul calls home. Has it migrated down to Anheuser-Busch headquarters in St. Louis? Or even across the pond to A-B InBev headquarters in Leuven, Belgium? The answer we found is that, at least for now, Goose Island’s soul is right here in Chicago.

Goose Island brewers were willing to speak freely about the identity and public perception issues they have faced in the market in the past year. They have grappled internally with the meaning of the sale, but have ultimately come to trust in the vision of Goose Island founder John Hall.

“Goose Island is John Hall and his legacy,” explained brewmaster Brett Porter. “It comes from a real culture of Midwestern values, the things that make Chicago a great place to live: Innovation, hard work, and history.”

John Laffler, manager of Goose Island’s barrel-aging program, explained how John Hall was the pivotal piece of his decision to stay with the company.

“I was pretty pissy about the sale when it was announced,” he admitted. “I asked myself, ‘Is this right for me? Do I want to stick around? Can I do this?’ Knowing John throughout the years, the passion he has for the company, the dedication he has to the people who work for him, that made it palatable. He’s not going to sell out and head to Aruba. He’s here every morning. He doesn’t have to be. He could easily retire and walk away and live his life, but I don’t think he would be happy. Goose Island is too important a part of who he is. Knowing that was enough to get me to stick around initially. Is it going to work in the long term? Is it not? Let’s wait and see.”

Porter agrees that the jury is—and should be—still out on the company and the beer.


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