The news of Elysian Brewing's purchase by Anheuser-Busch last week sent shock waves through Seattle. The immediate reaction by an unscientific majority was dismay and disappointment. Many vowed they'd never again patronize the label.
Once things settled down a bit, Seattle's beer community offered some pretty intelligent analysis. Kendall Jones at the Washington Beer Blog says, "The sky is not falling." He interviewed co-owner Dick Cantwell and thinks its important to heed Cantwell's wish for people to "judge Elysian by what’s in the bottle."
Allecia Vermillion at Seattle Met says that "Under optimal circumstances, these arrangements can bring more capital for local breweries, broader distribution, and more resources to get creative. It seems unlikely that Cantwell and company would have entered into this agreement otherwise. And yet hard to not feel melancholy about this one."
Will there be backlash at Elysian for "selling out" to giant corporate behemoth of Anheuser-Busch? Of course there will be some upset Elysian fans that don’t want to support corporations no matter what size. Very similar corporations that these same individuals are receiving this Elysian news on, such as an iPhone or Dell computer, that also come from very large corporations. A person can say one thing but it’s very difficult to follow through with it in one’s life in today’s modern world.
Beervana says they're rattled, saying "I fear we've lost a little bit of what made Seattle Seattle."
And The Dude Imbibes:
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 Walkr 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.
So now that you've had a weekend to think about it, what are your thoughts on the matter? Will this move help bring Elysian's craft beer to a new level -- and to new markets? Or is it a total sell-out, ripping sought-after dollars out of the hands of the local economy and stuffing the wallets of a major multi-national corporation bent on squashing the increasingly competitive craft brewing movement?