Judging by all the hysteria in the blogosphere and social media you’d think the sky was falling. I was just as surprised to hear about AB-InBev’s recently announced acquisition of our beloved Elysian Brewing but come on, shouldn’t we just wait and see…
Anyone who has followed this blog since its early days will know that Elysian is held in high esteem by Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer. Back in 2011, after spending a year visiting and reviewing the Seattle area’s 28 then leading breweries, Elysian became the first recipient of our Puget’s Perfect Pint award (read it).
Then, despite a continuing stream of new breweries coming online, and the blog’s ever-widening geographic scope, Elysian’s Capital Hill and Tangletown pubs remained our most frequent destinations among the Seattle area’s numerous brewpubs until our move to the UK in 2013.
The various things being said about Elysian’s new direction, ranging from cautious support to rabid opposition, are understandable. Elysian’s beers and brewpubs, so deeply ingrained in Seattle’s craft beer scene, mean many different things to different people: their comments naturally reflect this.
Among the various articles I’ve read on the beer blogs, there’s one that I think is worthy of mention: Brewbound’s take on the acquisition (read it). While too many commentators seem content to single out founder and head brewer Dick Cantwell as culprit Brewbound makes the point that Elysian’s decision to go ahead with AB-InBev came from a 5-person majority vote in which Dick voted no.
Two of these votes came from ‘unnamed investors’ whose identity I’d love to know. I’m left wondering if self-styled ‘serial international entrepreneur’ David Bruce is one of these mystery men. He was an early founding investor in Elysian and has been a busy boy of late. He’s been very active in my neck of the woods with West Berkshire Brewery and the City Pub Company, including their ‘brewhouse’ operations in Henley, Cambridge, Bath and London. Pure speculation on my part and I’m sure I’ll never know.
Anyway, at the end of the day I think the best thing I can say is to let Elysian speak for themselves. Here’s what they put out in their newsletter today (read it). Of course I have my own take on the Elysian buyout, the main points being:
Having already tried to jump on the bandwagon with faux-craft brands like Landshark and Shock Top, is this latest buyout (AB-InBev’s 4th since Goose Island, Blue Point, and 10 Barrel) further indication that their original strategy is failing or are they simply hedging their bets with a ‘if you can’t beat ’em then buy ’em’ approach?
It’s a similar approach to what we’ve seen here in the UK with Molson-Coors. They originally launched their faux-craft Blue Moon brand over here (and still sell it) but then they acquired Sharp’s Brewery (of Doom Bar fame). That the jury’s still out on these acquisitions is, I think, the most objective way to look at it.
From my own purely selfish point of view, I am hoping this Elysian acquisition will in the not too distant future put bottles of Immortal IPA, Dragonstooth Stout or Wise ESB – anything Elysian – on the shelf at my local Sainsbury’s – or any grocery store over here for that matter.
Since being acquired by AB-InBev in 2011 Goose Island IPA is becoming more widely available in the UK both on the grocery store shelf and on tap in pubs. If the same thing happens with Elysian and I enjoy a bottle of Immortal, say from my local Sainsbury’s, and it tastes as good as one from the last 6-pack I picked up at my local QFC store in Seattle, then I will be an eternally happy camper.