10 Craft Beers That Aren't
5. Goose Island Brewery
Why it's not craft: Owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev
Goose Island couldn't win, so why try?
The Chicago brewery got its start in 1988 but got its first taste of craft beer wrath when it joined up with Redhook and Widmer Brothers in the Craft Brewers Alliance in 2006. Despite saturating the Chicagoland area in 312 Urban Wheat during the summer and warming it with its barrel-aged Bourbon Country Stout during the winter, it occasionally drew critiques for associating with a collective that was distributed and partially owned by Anheuser-Busch.
Despite a trophy case full of medals from the Brewers Association's Great American Beer Festival, whispers about the supposedly inevitable drop in Goose Island's quality became deafening. Last year, founder John Hall sold the company to Anheuser-Busch InBev outright for $38.8 million. Since then, questions about Goose Island becoming a national brand (which it was, to a degree, when the Craft Brewers Alliance brewed it in various locations) and about Bourbon County Stout going year-round have continued to circulate.
There were still lines for BCS in Chicago this year and nothing about Goose Island's numbers indicate outsized success as A-B's "craft" beer brand. According to Beer Marketer's Insights, Goose Island sold 150,000 barrels of beer in 2011, its first year with Anheuser-Busch. Not only is that less than half of the 623,000 barrels sold by the Craft Brew Alliance in the same year, but it's a fraction of the 713,000 barrels sold by Colorado-based New Belgium and the 858,000 barrels unloaded by California-based Sierra Nevada.
Even among the big boys, Goose Island remains a misfit.