Friday was a busy day for CHS. The news that Capitol Hill-born Elysian Brewing was selling out to Anheuser-Busch InBev brought the fourth highest daily total of readers to CHS ever. (Our roster of biggest news days ever is at the bottom of this post.) We barely had a chance to read what others were saying about the deal. Here’s a look at the soul searching and insights we’ve found about the deal. Let us know what we missed.
Elysian + AB InBev notes
- In case you missed a few of our later updates, tweets from two Elysian employees didn’t paint a happy picture around the circumstances of the deal’s announcement Friday:
Employees are shocked by announcement including myself. Thanks for everyones support. Many good people here at Elysian.— elysianmattt (@elysianmatt) January 23, 2015
I feel sick to my stomach. I never saw this coming…I’m sorry guys. — Derting (@ElysianDerting) January 23, 2015
- The Washington Beer Blog knew the deal was coming — and knew it would come with some big questions — Is Elysian Brewing evil now that it’s part of Anheuser-Busch?
Dick said something that I think is very important. “We hope people will continue to judge Elysian by what’s in the bottle.” There is no doubt Dick understood that people would freak out, but he really does hope people can see past the business end of things and just continue to enjoy Elysian beers.
- Seattle Beer News has posted “5 Questions With Dick Cantwell” — and, of course, answers:
What would you say to the people that take issue with moves like this? — Well, I would ask them to drink the beer and tell us whether it’s worse for the change. It’s not gonna be. It shouldn’t be any different at all. You can imagine we’ve fielded a lot of questions about *Loser. Everyone seems to be assuming that we’ll have to stop making that. We’re not going to stop making that, anymore than we’re going to stop doing anything else that we’ve been doing.
- The Puget Sound Business Journal talked with Joe Bisacca, Elysian CEO and co-founder:
“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,” Bisacca said.
- Brewpublic included Elysian partner David Buhler in the discussion:
“We always thought it was funny that people didn’t get the joke. From the beginning we were a corporation and we were literally calling ourselves the Loser. That’s what that beer was about”.
- The Dude Imbibes: In making his case about how bad this deal is for craft breweries, this beer writer also shows exactly what Elysian might have been up against as it continued to grow:
First of all, perhaps you aren’t aware of it, but AB INBEV owns their own distributorship (these are the companies that get the beer you love to drink to your local watering hole, bottleshop, etc.). They have a lot of money, power, and influence in what beers from their portfolio saturate your market. What they like to do to independent companies who are solely signed to their distributing arm is push them out of the market if they refuse to be bought up (see the recent examples of Firestone Walker and Ninkasi). This isn’t just bad for those wonderful independent brands, but it’s also bad for your other favorite labels who are signed to smaller distributors because AB INBEV has the ability to buy up shelf space from them at your local grocery store. Okay, so you’ll just shop at your super craft-dedicated uber local bottleshop and to hell with it, right? Not quite. Many fans of craft beer aren’t lucky enough to live in areas of concentrated craft offerings, and many cities aren’t considered to be craft beer meccas like those that pepper the country.
Wow. Weeks ago, when AB snatched 10 Barrel, I observed that their strategy appeared to revolve around finding independent breweries with impeccable cred, and they could hardly have done better than Elysian. It’s long been my favorite Washington brewery, and it’s always my first stop when I hit Seattle. It has always seemed the most Seattle of the Seattle breweries–an extemporaneous brewery that could be equal parts gritty and urbane and credibly support local sports teams or indie bands. Elysian always seemed to be right where Seattle was a the time.
- Beer writer Brian Yaeger speculates that the 2012 death of Dick Cantwell’s son Nap in a bike collision at Pike and Boren could have influenced the decision to sell:
Nap’s passing perhaps altered his vision for the company’s future and even if that had nothing to do with this transaction, at the very least it shows that people face much bigger issues and dilemmas in life than crying about the sale of one of your favorite breweries (none of us has one single favorite).
- The Seattle Times joined others in spelling out why Elysian was acquired:
Friday’s acquisition announcement is another example of Anheuser-Busch trying to counter declining sales by growing its craft-beer portfolio. The company bought Chicago-based Goose Island in 2011, followed by New York-based Blue Point Brewery Co. and Oregon-based 10 Barrel Brewing last year.
- UPDATE: Capitol Hill locals Optimism Brewing (opening “early 2015” at Broadway/Union) have also weighed in and are offering a hearty congratulations:
I think it’s great news for brewers. For decades, Anheuser-Busch, because of its size and buying power, had a big influence over what barley and hop farmers grew. So barley and hops have been relatively homogenous. Craft beer has changed that. Today, there are several dozen different varieties of hops and I hear about new hops every few weeks. AB-InBev will continue to have that influence over what is grown, but instead of it being a limited variety, they will need more varieties to supply their craft breweries. All craft breweries will benefit from that.
- UPDATE: Northwest Beer Guide looks at the “human collateral” side of things:
Without this sale, Elysian (potentially) risks receding back into the carapace at 1221 East Pike Street, from which it’s growth came from. Without this sale, Elysian could eventually be managed by 1 or more exhausted owners, looking for a way to leave peaceably, while maintaining their dignity. With this sale Dick can continue brewing. With this sale Dave can continue selling beer. With this sale Joe can continue promoting Elysian in 1 of 4 pubs. All of which has come with a social-cost.
- In Bend, The Bulletin checked in with a previous AB acquisition:
The brewery will not hang the Anheuser-Busch logo on the building, and will continue to close on snow days so employees can ski, the partners said. “Anheuser-Busch doesn’t really like that,” Cox said, but “they signed up for this game.”