Anheuser-Busch Buys Seattle’s Elysian Brewing
Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) announced in January that it would add another existing brewery to its portfolio, Seattle’s Elysian Brewing. The brewery, founded in 1995 by Dave Buhler, Joe Bisacca and Dick Cantwell, is a major player in the Northwest beer scene, with a production facility and four Seattle brewpubs.
The news came about 10 weeks after AB InBev purchased Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Co.; AB InBev also acquired New York’s Blue Point Brewing last year and Chicago’s Goose Island in 2011. Speaking to Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune, Andy Goeler, AB InBev vice president, imports, crafts & specialties, said that these breweries garner strong local interest.
“These craft brewers offer something that we can’t—local appeal,” Goeler said. “That’s a big driver for consumers today. These craft breweries are from local communities created by local people. That’s powerful. And we want to provide those brands to our distributors.”
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. The brewery currently distributes to 11 states as well as parts of Canada and Taiwan, Australia and Japan.
The sale comes at a time when aging breweries are looking toward succession plans that ensure the companies’ steady growth and quality standards. As brewers look to secure their future, tough decisions may face owners of breweries that have defined their brand as “craft.” Co-founder and head brewer Dick Cantwell, who opposed the sale but was outvoted, acknowledged that.
“I’ve always had great respect for what a company like A-B does, and for A-B itself. I recognize that there are key differences between different arms of the brewing industry, but bridges need to be built,” Cantwell told the Tribune. “I intend to still champion craft beer, and I’m president of the Washington Brewers Guild until I hear otherwise. I was hoping for a different outcome, but I can recognize something positive for the future in this.”