Anheuser-Busch acquires Elysian Brewing Company — including E Pike brewery

"Brewmaster" (Image: Jeanine Anderson via Flickr)

“Brewmaster” (Image: Jeanine Anderson via Flickr)

Helpers at an Elysian trimming party last year (Image: Elysian)

Helpers at an Elysian trimming party last year (Image: Elysian)

Anheuser-Busch, the US wing of a global brewing giant, announced Friday morning it has acquired Elysian Brewing including the Seattle-based company’s E Pike brewery and pub.

Opened in 1996, Elysian’s Capitol Hill pub and brewery was the company’s first location. The brewery was founded by Dick Cantwell, Joe Bisacca and David Buhler.

The E Pike Elysian celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2011 with with 15 favorite beers. At the time, Cantwell provided some history about this much-loved brewery:

It took us about two years to plan, write the business plan, raise the money, etc. We opened a week late and $3000 over budget. I had been brewing at Big Time–we brought a lot of their old staff over–and before that at Pike Place–Fal, their head brewer rode his motorcycle inside the day we opened. I also worked at a place on lower Queen Anne–Duwamps Cafe, before that. We opened with one of our beers–The Wise ESB–a little fruity because of a warm fermentation–and filled out the taps with beers from every brewery that any of us had had anything to do with in the past. We raced Pike to brew first, since they were opening their new place in the Market South Arcade. After a year-plus of going neck and neck, we beat them by an hour.

Elysian has not yet announced any financial details of the transaction or planned changes for its E Pike facility. In 2011, Anheuser-Busch acquired Chicago’s Goose Island and its approximately 130,000 to 150,000 annual barrel capacity for $38.8 million. In 2014, it bought New York’s Blue Point for somewhere between $18 million to $24 million. Blue Point’s 60,000 barrel capacity is in the same ballpark as Elysian’s annual output.

Elysian is currently distributed in at least 10 states and has collaborated with large brewing companies like New Belgium in the past.

“Throughout our journey we’ve been focused on brewing a portfolio of both classic and groundbreaking beers and supporting innovation and camaraderie in the beer industry through collaboration and experimentation,” Cantwell is quoted as saying in the Anheuser-Busch announcement. “By joining with Anheuser-Busch we’ll be able to take the next steps to bring that energy and commitment to a larger audience.”

The deal puts the only major producer of beer on Capitol Hill in the hands of a massive beverage conglomerate. Smaller brewing efforts are in the works including the ambitious Optimism Brewing project transforming an auto row era showroom at Broadway and Union into a brewery and taproom. That project is gunning for a late 2015 opening. Meanwhile, on the other end of the size spectrum, tiny Outer Planet will debut its Hill-made brews in coming weeks (days?) on 12th Ave. In smaller big beer news, national beer chain World of Beer recently let its Capitol Hill location go indie as 500 East.

UPDATE: Some of Elysian’s more vocal employees aren’t taking the news well:

Meanwhile, Anheuser-Bush won’t be the only global player operating a production facility in the neighborhood. Starbucks opened its $30 million-plus Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room at Melrose and Pike in December.

Anheuser-Busch is part of InBev, “a Belgian-Brazilian multinational beverage and brewing company headquartered in Leuven, Belgium.” As the world’s “largest brewer,” it reportedly holds a 25% share of the global beer market.

Last fall, Anheuser-Busch and InBev acquired Bend, Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Co.. “Anheuser-Busch InBev has no intention of lowering quality,” this industry analysis of the deal concluded. “It wants to enter the craft beer segment with the kinds of products people are already scrambling to buy.” 10 Barrel continues to operate pubs in Bend, Portland and Boise.

Here are AB InBev’s “Local Champion Brands” —

(Source: Wikipedia)

(Source: Wikipedia)

Anheuser-Busch’s announcement of the acquisition is below:

Seattle-based brewery and four brewpubs to be included in acquisition

St. LOUIS and SEATTLE (January 23, 2015) – Anheuser-Busch today announced it has agreed to purchase Elysian Brewing Company, based in Seattle, Washington. For nearly 20 years, Elysian has brewed an award-winning portfolio of beers, including Immortal IPA and some of the industry’s most innovative and sophisticated brands.

“For two decades, we’ve welcomed guests into our brewpubs and served them creative and impeccably crafted beers,” said Joe Bisacca, Elysian ‎CEO and co-founder, who will continue with Elysian along with his partners, Dick Cantwell and David Buhler. “After a lot of hard work, we’ve grown from one Seattle brewpub to four pub locations and a production brewery. With the support of Anheuser-Busch, we will build on past successes and share our beers with more beer lovers moving forward.”

Dick Cantwell, Elysian co-founder and Head Brewer added, “Throughout our journey we’ve been focused on brewing a portfolio of both classic and groundbreaking beers and supporting innovation and camaraderie in the beer industry through collaboration and experimentation. By joining with Anheuser-Busch we’ll be able to take the next steps to bring that energy and commitment to a larger audience.”

Elysian sold more than 50,000 barrels of beer in 2014, with Immortal IPA accounting for more than a quarter of the company’s total volume.

“Elysian’s story includes everything we look for in a partner,” said Andy Goeler, CEO, Craft, Anheuser-Busch. “The team has spent their careers brewing distinctive beers in the thriving West Coast beer community and building unique venues that celebrate beer. As the fastest growing brewer in Washington, their recipe is working. Elysian’s brands are an important addition to our high-end beer portfolio, and we look forward to working together.”

In addition to the Seattle Airport Way brewery, the acquisition includes the company’s four Seattle brewpubs, Elysian Capitol Hill, Elysian Tangletown, Elysian Fields and Elysian BAR.

Anheuser-Busch’s purchase of Elysian is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2015. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

69 thoughts on “Anheuser-Busch acquires Elysian Brewing Company — including E Pike brewery

  1. I hope this acquisition doesn’t dilute (pardon the pun) everything that makes Elysian the perfect antidote to rampant hipsterism on the Hill.

  2. Well that’s it for me. How pathetic to sell out to the scum of the earth in the beer game.

    I love many of their beers but never again will my money go to them. I cannot, and will not support AB and InBev for any reason.

    Just a dumb, dumb, dumb, decision.

    • @Aaron, I think it is a stretch for you to call it a “dumb, dumb, dumb decision” without knowing the reasons why Elysian sold to AB/InBev. Maybe their goal was to get paid for the nearly 20 years of hard work they’ve put into the business. Maybe their goal is to distribute to 40 states, not 10. Maybe their hearts weren’t into either running a business or brewing anymore.

      You, like everyone else (including Kevin and Kalista), can choose where to spend your beer money, and we are fortunate to live in Seattle where there are many, many good options.

    • I’m going to drink some of their beer this weekend while I still know that it was brewed with heart and style, and decent ingredients. Then I’m done.

    • Seriously. It’s not like we’re lacking in microbrews in Seattle. It’s beer, not art – congratulations on a big pay off after years of hard work and (I’d imagine) financial risk.

    • All these people whining about what a sell-out it is– as if making beer was a community/non-profit undertaking– SURE, as if you had the chance to jump at a maybe multi-million $$ buyout, you wouldn’t? Yeah, ok, right. Grow up children– start your own brewery and maybe you’ll have some credibility here.

    • This is exactly right! They’ve provided years and years of good brews to Seattle, so good for them for earning the success. If you don’t like InBev (I don’t), like others have said, try some other local breweries.

    • Yeah but you guys might not know how hypocritical it is for them to sell out to a large corporation. They produce a beer called Loser that says right on the package that “Corporate Beer Still Sucks”.

    • That LOSER campaign is more tongue-and-cheek than anything else, since it’s been about 20 years since Sub Pop sold-out to Time-Warner Inc.

      It’s kind of funny how subversive marketing campaigns can suck-in the very people who pretend to be offended by marketing campaigns.

  3. I have mixed feelings about this. I love Elysian beer, but I make a point to avoid anything with an AB affiliation. I think it was some beer documentary that swayed me. Gotta love those lifestyle-altering documentaries…

  4. Pingback: Anheuser-Busch acquires Elysian Brewing Company — including E Pike brewery | StLouisRestaurantReview

  5. If the quality of the beer remains, I’ll be ok continuing to drink it.

    However, it does suck that the Noc Noc ended up being replaced with an Anheiser-Busch-owned pub.

  6. What?! This is depressing. How long do I have to go out and stock up on Elysian before my money goes to AB…sometime in the spring? I definitely want to avoid giving even a penny to InBev. I know my own boycott won’t make a difference when they’re hugely expanding their market, but I want to get just one more jasmine IPA before I say goodbye for good. Fortunately, there’s enough good local beer in Seattle so we won’t miss them too much. They better pull their Lose beers because that’s just too hypocritical now. Ugh.

  7. I like to add in my head little “-Sent from iPhone” tags after every comment complaining about paying money to big corporations.

  8. Do I blame them for taking the money, absolutely not. Do I think they are lame for who they sold out to absolutely.

    Will I continue to support them, not a chance in hell. I hate AB and InBev. They will absolutely destroy the quality.

    • By using the word “absolutely” we are to assume you have direct knowledge that this is the plan? To destroy the quality of all Elysian beer?

      Or, maybe your statement is based on the experience of some other acquired brewery which was bought-out by InBev, and then the previously yummy craft beer started to taste like Bud Lite?

      Or, are you just guessing here and using hipster hyperbole to make people believe you actually know what you’re talking about?

  9. I will never buy another Elysian beer. It is so hypocritical for the author of “The Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery” to sell out to inbev. And they know it. Their Loser beer shows they know how corporate breweries are. Inbev is the enemy to craft beer. They would destroy it in a second if they could.

    From thepourfool.com;

    As one of their (AB/InBev) VP’s told me in an email, back in 2011, “Actually, the term ‘craft brewing’ that you people toss around is wrong. What we do at Anheuser Busch is craft brewing because it involves the craft of brewing. What those weird little breweries do is actually ‘amateur brewing’, and the sooner you all figure that out, the better.”

  10. I remember swearing off Redhook Brewery when it sold itself to Budweiser back in the 80’s. At this point in my rather ancient life I buy beer I enjoy regardless of who owns it, makes it, or where it is made! I still favor locally produced ales though.

  11. “My” brewpub has been bought.

    Earlier today when told me about this I kept my upset to myself until I could read the article. And now, the combination of disappointment, rage, and sadness threatens to make me throw up. If I weren’t drunk, I’d probably throw up. Only the rum is keeping my emotions in check enough to reign in my natural response.

    Elysian’s Loser logo tagline is “Corporate Beer Still Sucks.”
    Yes. Yes it does.

    Elysian, you were doing fine. You were in the black with a nice profitable market. There was no reason to do this but greed. I can’t drink your beer any more. I can’t even use your growlers for my own future booze-related fiddling. This is no commitment, but where I might have followed your works with instant faith before, I now give you a distant side-eye. Elk Frost and Space Dust may find their way to me, if papa Budweiser doesn’t smother them in their cradles.

    “In no fix’d place the happy souls reside. In groves we live, and lie on mossy beds, By crystal streams, that murmur thro’ the meads: But pass yon easy hill, and thence descend; The path conducts you to your journey’s end.’ This said, he led them up the mountain’s brow, And shews them all the shining fields below. They wind the hill, and thro’ the blissful meadows go.”
    — Virgil, the Aeneid

  12. Craft beer will still be brewed by them, they just sold their profitable beer company. Its the American way…to make money, go on to something else? you like their beer drink their beer, period. Who cares who owns what?!

  13. For everyone who doesn’t think that this is a big deal, that people who are angry are hipsters, who rally with the belief that quality won’t degrade, or that this is simply for distribution purposes – understand this: By supporting Elysian or any other A-B beer, you are supporting and funding their business practices. This is the organization that funds MILLIONS of dollars to lobby for the shitty 3-tier distribution system which absolutely screws over smaller craft breweries trying to get on shelves. Supporting A-B is against everything the craft industry is all about.

    This isn’t about Elysian owners getting their payday. This isn’t about change of quality. This isn’t about anything else. This is about another way for A-B to slowly destroy the small guys in a game that they were starting to lose at.

  14. if i were part of that crew i would pick up the phone and call a Teamsters local or UFCW 21. i am pretty sure a large number of drivers, warehouse workers, and bottling plant workers for AB across the country have union representation and i wouldn’t be feeling very secure right now if i worked there. it’s rare for a restaurant i know, but we are now talking about a franchise owned by a giant corporation. they can afford to pay people a decent wage and insure them. .

  15. No, hasty was my first reaction to go find the owners and kick them in the balls. How dare they sell out our city to the highest bidder. What’s next? A fucking Walmart on the hill?

  16. All the people commenting about how A-B will ruin Elysian do know that A-B ALREADY distributes Elysian, right? How else do you think it gets on the shelves at Safeway, Gross Out and QFC?

    • Ugh. Another person with more attitude than sense – yes, I do know the difference. My point was that you are already dealing w/ InBev in some form when you buy their beer anywhere other than in the brewpubs.

  17. Pingback: What they’re saying about the Elysian-Anheuser-Busch InBev deal: why they sold, the ‘Loser’ joke, what’s next | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  18. Pingback: Links from the Week | Saunatina Writing

  19. Pingback: Budlysian | Wallyhood

  20. Pingback: Broadway OfficeMax is closing in February | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  21. Pingback: Capitol Hill food+drink | Thomas Soukakos’s friends will like Omega Ouzeri and so will you | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  22. Pingback: Elysian Brewing cofounder Dick Cantwell resigns three months after Anheuser-Busch takeover | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  23. Pingback: Elysian Bar | Nick Spang