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North American Guild of Beer Writer Award Recipient  Goose Island opened as a family-owned Chicago brewpub in the late 1980s, and it soon became one of the most inventive breweries in the world. In the golden age of light, bland and cheap beers, John Hall and his son Greg brought European flavors to America. With distribution in two dozen states, two brewpubs and status as North American Guild of Beer Writer Award Recipient  Goose Island opened as a family-owned Chicago brewpub in the late 1980s, and it soon became one of the most inventive breweries in the world. In the golden age of light, bland and cheap beers, John Hall and his son Greg brought European flavors to America. With distribution in two dozen states, two brewpubs and status as one of the 20 biggest breweries in the United States, Goose Island became an American success story and was a champion of craft beer. Then, on March 28, 2011, the Halls sold the brewery to Anheuser-Busch InBev, maker of Budweiser, the least craft-like beer imaginable. The sale forced the industry to reckon with craft beer’s mainstream appeal and a popularity few envisioned. Josh Noel broke the news of the sale in the Chicago Tribune, and he covered the resulting backlash from Chicagoans and beer fanatics across the country as the discussion escalated into an intellectual craft beer war. Anheuser-Busch has since bought nine other craft breweries, and from among the outcry rises a question that Noel addresses through personal anecdotes from industry leaders: how should a brewery grow?


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North American Guild of Beer Writer Award Recipient  Goose Island opened as a family-owned Chicago brewpub in the late 1980s, and it soon became one of the most inventive breweries in the world. In the golden age of light, bland and cheap beers, John Hall and his son Greg brought European flavors to America. With distribution in two dozen states, two brewpubs and status as North American Guild of Beer Writer Award Recipient  Goose Island opened as a family-owned Chicago brewpub in the late 1980s, and it soon became one of the most inventive breweries in the world. In the golden age of light, bland and cheap beers, John Hall and his son Greg brought European flavors to America. With distribution in two dozen states, two brewpubs and status as one of the 20 biggest breweries in the United States, Goose Island became an American success story and was a champion of craft beer. Then, on March 28, 2011, the Halls sold the brewery to Anheuser-Busch InBev, maker of Budweiser, the least craft-like beer imaginable. The sale forced the industry to reckon with craft beer’s mainstream appeal and a popularity few envisioned. Josh Noel broke the news of the sale in the Chicago Tribune, and he covered the resulting backlash from Chicagoans and beer fanatics across the country as the discussion escalated into an intellectual craft beer war. Anheuser-Busch has since bought nine other craft breweries, and from among the outcry rises a question that Noel addresses through personal anecdotes from industry leaders: how should a brewery grow?

30 review for Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business

  1. 4 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    Check out my review on Booktube Check out my review on Booktube

  2. 4 out of 5

    Koen

    A most excellent read which takes an immediate spot in a select list of essential books about American craft beer. Roughly divided in two equal parts the first part, ‘Barrel-Aged Stout’ deals about Goose Island, AB InBev and beer in general pre-takeover, the second part, ‘Selling Out’ post-takeover. While the focus in part one lies on the origin story of Goose Island, the rise of this iconic brewery didn’t happen in a vacuum. The author provides a lot of context about the history of craft beer in A most excellent read which takes an immediate spot in a select list of essential books about American craft beer. Roughly divided in two equal parts the first part, ‘Barrel-Aged Stout’ deals about Goose Island, AB InBev and beer in general pre-takeover, the second part, ‘Selling Out’ post-takeover. While the focus in part one lies on the origin story of Goose Island, the rise of this iconic brewery didn’t happen in a vacuum. The author provides a lot of context about the history of craft beer in America laced with a decent amount of history about Anheuser-Busch. Both topics are handled more comprehensively in Acitelli’s ‘The Audacity of Hops’ and Knoedelseder ‘Bitter Brew’ and if you have read those there may not be much real new information here. If you have not I think it’s a valuable concise history of (craft) beer in America in itself. The second part, ‘Selling Out’, is about the period during and post-takeover and arguably the most interesting part. As I haven’t been closely following the GI/ABI story myself a trove of fascinating information is presented here. What happened? What changed? And what did and does it mean for the (craft) beer industry in general? I think the author does a very good job of giving the reader a balanced view of the considerations John Hall had to take into account pertaining, not only growing his business, but actually saving it. To grow a successful brewery is a tough proposition. Tony Magee and Ken Grossman in their respective books about Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada pretty much described the same difficulties Goose Island had. You can hardly blame Hall, not for cashing out, but for doing what was, in his eyes, best for the company. His business, his money, his life. But you can’t blame the fans for being disappointed either. And of course there was a backlash. ABI is seen by many as an enemy to independent beer. The reasons for that sentiment are talked about throughout the book and seem valid. At the same time the reasons for ABI’s forays into craft beer are also made clear and those seem valid too. On the whole, the author provides us with a comprehensive and very balanced account of everything surrounding the takeover. It is left up to the reader to come to his or her own conclusions. Whenever an independent brewery ‘sells out’ pretty much the same discussions play out in the online fora. I think this book is a valuable resource for everyone forming an informed opinion on the matter. But I like to stretch that the book is about way more than just the takeover. It’s an interesting look at the history of beer in America, the history of Goose Island , of Anheuser-Busch and the beer business in general. Well written, well researched and recommended for everyone with an interest in (craft) beer.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eli Hornyak

    Very well written and extremely well researched.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    4.25 out of 5 stars An engrossing read about the birth of the craft beer revolution and the way in which "Big Beer" dealt with that market disruption. A must-read for any craft beer enthusiast who is interested in the history and business side of beer in the United States. 4.25 out of 5 stars An engrossing read about the birth of the craft beer revolution and the way in which "Big Beer" dealt with that market disruption. A must-read for any craft beer enthusiast who is interested in the history and business side of beer in the United States.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenni

    4.5 stars. I have been fascinated with craft breweries since frequenting and falling in love with Imminent Brewing (Northfield, MN) since shortly after my 21st birthday. I always found the community spirit at that brewery to be so uplifting and loved discovering beers that I truly loved (I personally have always thought Budweiser, Coors, and Miller all taste like garbage) brewed by people with a love and talent for the craft. In all aspects of my life, shopping local is one of my top priorities, 4.5 stars. I have been fascinated with craft breweries since frequenting and falling in love with Imminent Brewing (Northfield, MN) since shortly after my 21st birthday. I always found the community spirit at that brewery to be so uplifting and loved discovering beers that I truly loved (I personally have always thought Budweiser, Coors, and Miller all taste like garbage) brewed by people with a love and talent for the craft. In all aspects of my life, shopping local is one of my top priorities, in large part due to the power small, innovative businesses have in building community, and so patronizing and supporting craft breweries became a natural extension of that for me. This all meant that when I first heard about this book, at some point in the year after my 21st birthday, I knew I wanted to read it. And boy was I impressed! This was one of the most well-research, engaging non-fiction books that I have read in a long time. The history of craft brewing is fascinating, as are the political and business machinations that have happened in recent years. Because of the ways in which craft breweries position themselves in our larger capitalist system (as the antithesis to the “big bad” corporations of the world—similar in some ways to independent bookstores), the inevitability of profits overtaking authenticity and integrity is heart-breaking, but, as Josh Noel argues, somewhat inevitable. The breakdown of craft beer was made more circumspect by the likes of brewery founders like Josh Noel, who approached the creation of a brewery not out of a love of the craft but as a viable business venture. For these reasons, this book brought to my mind a lot of questions about the power small businesses have against more powerful corporations, as well as the power we have as consumers in pushing back against the products of corporations and supporting local products. The reason I knocked it down half a star was not necessarily a fault of the book, as this book is about business, but sometimes the business discussion just went over my head. Additionally, there are a lot of players at the different companies in question that get name-dropped quite frequently, often without their title/role, which often confused me. Other than that small critique, I loved this book. If you are also interested in craft brewing, behind-the-scenes looks at business acquisitions, and/or the lack of souls that large multi-national corporations have, I would highly recommend this book!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brooks

    As a beer guy, the topic of craft breweries “selling-out” to international macro breweries and venture capital is a hot topic of debate. This book focuses on the story of John and Gary Hall, the leaders behind Goose Island Brewery. John Hall was an executive at Container Corporation of America – a corrugated box manufacturer. While he liked beer, he started the brewery because he saw a market opportunity (unlike many of his brewer contemporaries of the late 1980s/early 1990s who expanded from ho As a beer guy, the topic of craft breweries “selling-out” to international macro breweries and venture capital is a hot topic of debate. This book focuses on the story of John and Gary Hall, the leaders behind Goose Island Brewery. John Hall was an executive at Container Corporation of America – a corrugated box manufacturer. While he liked beer, he started the brewery because he saw a market opportunity (unlike many of his brewer contemporaries of the late 1980s/early 1990s who expanded from homebrewing). His son, Gary, started at minimum wage as the brewer’s assistant as a summer job after college. Gary became the brew-master and overtime to be the brewer/spokesman of the brewery. Gary became the “founder” or soul of the brewery – he spoke at the industry conferences, hosted beer pairing dinners, socialized with chefs and influence-makers. John, with his executive background, provided the discipline and strategic focus. They sold 40% of their brewery in 2006 to the “craft beer association” a subsidiary of AB-Inbev including Widmer and Red Hook. Then sold the entire brewery in 2011. At the time of the sale, the brewery was growing 20%+. They could not brew enough 312 wheat – they had to decrease their barrel age and specialty brews to keep up with demand. With the purchase, this allowed the Fulton Street Brewery in Chicago to continue to focus on the specialty brews, move the 312 production to an ABI brewery in Baldwinsville, NY. The book covers the difficulty with that transition. ABI uses 1000 barrel horizontal fermenters which is very different than the 50 barrel systems used at Goose Island. They had to dump the first three batches in the larger fermenters because it had a slightly different taste than when brewed in Chicago – not defective or skunked just missing some of the taste characteristics (that’s 6,000 kegs of beer!). Eventually, they got it close enough that it passed blind taste panels. Overtime, most of the brewers from Goose Island have moved onto other breweries, especially Revolution in Chicago. Greg Hall started Virtue cider but could not get consistency, over invested and failed quickly – he admits his father was the better manager. Goose Island is still winning awards for its specialty beer – over five years since ABI took over. This is something no one expected. Craft brewers have struggled against the big breweries. It is not just the advertising dollars, it is also structural barriers. Since the repeal of prohibition, there has been a three-tier system for selling alcohol – manufacturer, distributor, retailer. This was designed to prevent breweries from locking out competitors in retail (in many countries, a bar only carries one brewery’s products). In reality, Anheuser-Busch has a lock on the distributors. They provide incentives to the distributors to only carry Bud products. Many excellent craft breweries have a tough choice to make. To expand outside their home market, they need capacity and distribution. They may be highly profitable, but may have trouble getting the $10-100 Million to expand capacity. And they also need access to the distributors in other cities (which ABInbev and SABMiller control). Further, after 20 years, the original founder(s) may want to cash out or are tired of the grind. If a brewery sells itself to an international brewer, should you stop drinking the beer? Is it only about what is in glass or do you purchase based on the company ownership? Obviously, if the quality goes, then yes. But if many cases, the quality may improve as the mega breweries know quality control and how to maintain consistency. The local distributors are better and have more frequent turn-over. Big beer makes a good argument that it should only be taste – why would you not enjoy an amazing beer just because the owner is larger company? Craft brewers make a strong case that every $1 spent with ABI prevents the next micro-brewery from opening or selling in your area. Many of them have spent their entire existence fighting against pay to play, Superbowl commercials, and distributor exclusivity. Even with the proliferation of tap handles and beer bars, ABI does its best to get as many of those handles as it can. In Washington, a couple of bars had signed exclusivity agreements with AB – they looked like they had selection – Groose Island, Stella Artois, Elysian – but all were Bud products and the bar was getting a kickback. What if the buyer is not Anheuser-Busch Inbev, but Duvel? What beer connoisseur could have a bad opinion of Duvel – one of the greatest beers in the world? But Duvel Moortgat is a large, international brewer that purchased Omnegang, Boulevard and Firestone-Walker. These brewers are no longer considered craft because a mega-brewer owns over 25%. They still brew at their home brewery, but also in other facilities providing capacity to enter other markets. Firestone-Walker being distributed in your town maybe preventing the next Firestone-Walker brewery from getting on tap. Should you drink a less consistent, local brewery or drink the name recognition and consistency from a larger, non-local brewery?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    I thoroughly enjoyed Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business by Josh Noel.  The style is engaging and lively and enticed me to read on through in the space of a day. The title is carefully written and I sense can be read to appeal to various factions in the contentious argument between 'craft brewers' and 'big beer' around the world. What does 'craft' really mean? How big is big beer? Is the question of quantity versus quality? Who m I thoroughly enjoyed Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business by Josh Noel.  The style is engaging and lively and enticed me to read on through in the space of a day. The title is carefully written and I sense can be read to appeal to various factions in the contentious argument between 'craft brewers' and 'big beer' around the world. What does 'craft' really mean? How big is big beer? Is the question of quantity versus quality? Who makes the rules? Who defines the terms? Regardless of how 'you' answer any of these questions and what side of the posed argument you find yourself on, this book will appeal. I pre-ordered 'Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out' after seeing it mentioned online and was thrilled when it magically appeared on my Kindle two days ago. I sunk in, enjoyed the ride and find myself completely satisfied. It is full, deep and comprehensive in treatment and I come away feeling that I have learned much about the inner workings and varied motivations of both microbrewing and macrobrewing in the US today. The author's journalistic background shines through in the most positive manner, knowing how to carefully construct/weave a narrative that is not entirely linear and is composed of a large number of characters and subplots. I feel obliged to mention that it is non-fiction - relayed in an informal, and lyrical narrative - exposing the battle between 'big beer' in the United States and the variety of individuals and organisations that wrestle with a definition of what craft brewing and microbrewing entails. Anheuser Busch / InBev is initially pitched as the villain and the independent craft brewers as the heroes engaged in a David and Goliath battle for truth, purity, authenticity and tradition. However, and this is the real strength of this book, it becomes clear that definitions are fluid, perceptions are mixed and if anything, mindsets, motivations and agendas are varied. The reader comes away with a greater understanding of what craft, micro and macro brewing mean to the multitude of players, both on the production and consumption side of the equation. No one side is right or wrong, everyone has different values and these are thoughtfully explored through a rollicking tale of mergers, acquisitions, court battles, PR escapades and human beings practising their crafts and enjoying their livelihoods. I believe that the author presents the sides in a most balanced and yet nuanced fashion and with a passion for the industry that makes this a highly recommended read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ptarrant5

    I love beer. I was in college during the mid to late 70's, when the only important feature of beer was how much it cost. Old Milwaukee was a big favorite. As I was beginning my teaching career in the early 80's, still with next to no money, a bar I frequented in Stroudsburg, PA., offered a 3 for 1 Rolling Rock pony bottle special for a dollar. Rolling Rock had a much smoother, refreshing taste when compared to the other beers of the day and was brewed in Pennsylvania, not far from my original ho I love beer. I was in college during the mid to late 70's, when the only important feature of beer was how much it cost. Old Milwaukee was a big favorite. As I was beginning my teaching career in the early 80's, still with next to no money, a bar I frequented in Stroudsburg, PA., offered a 3 for 1 Rolling Rock pony bottle special for a dollar. Rolling Rock had a much smoother, refreshing taste when compared to the other beers of the day and was brewed in Pennsylvania, not far from my original hometown of Pittsburgh. A microbrewery before microbreweries were cool. My journey as a discerning beer drinker had begun. I went to Dickens Inn, an olde city classic in Philadelphia, and had a Whitbread Ale from England and was amazed at the rich taste of the beer. I couldn't yet afford to be a beer snob, but I always made sure that when I had a few extra bucks in my pocket, it was ok to give myself a good beer treat. On a trip to Boston in 1986, I had my first Sam Adams lager, at that time it was brewed at the Iron City brewery in Pittsburgh, then shipped to Boston. I went to the Vermont brewery in Burlington in 1990, and visited the Anchor brewery a few years later in San Francisco. I discovered the Stoudt's brewery in Adamstown, PA, not soon after Yuengling Lager, another Pennsylvania beer from an independent brewer, became an East Coast phenomenon. Once I had my first Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in 1995, there was no turning back. In his new book, Barrel-aged Stout and Selling Out, Josh Noel looks at the Craft beer landscape through it's first growth spurt in the mid 80's, to it's tenuous growth through the mid to late 90's, to it's unprecedented growth spurt in the mid 2000's, which made the big beer companies very nervous. In his book, he tells the story of John Hall and the great brewery he created in Chicago, Goose Island. Most craft beer success stories begin in a garage, or basement, but John Hall was a bored, successful business man who wanted to drink better beer. He loved the beer brewed in Europe and didn't understand why great beer couldn't be made in the United States. An avid home brewer, he ended his very successful business career and jumped into the nascent craft brewery full steam ahead, pulling his 20 something, beer loving son along for a great ride. After some fitful starts and stops, Goose Island became a huge Midwest success story with unprecedented growth through the mid 2000's to 2011. Greg Hall played a major part in their initial success in the mid 90's when he developed Bourbon County Stout, brewed in bourbon barrels, and began the now common trait of bold experimentation in the craft brewery world. The beer was brewed at different times of the year and drew great crowds to the brewery on the day it was available. We never heard of Goose Island in Pennsylvania back then, but they became a major force in the Midwest as Anheuser-Busch beer sales began to very slowly decrease. By 2011, Goose Island was growing so fast they didn't have the ability to brew beer fast enough in Chicago to keep up with demand and were going to begin losing money. John Hall was getting older and didn't think leaving the brewery to his son was going to be a viable retirement move. Thus, the next big phase in the craft brewery story began. Anheuser-Busch/InBev, the US/Belgian/Brazilian conglomerate, purchased Goose Island, and the beer landscape has been in a state of flux ever since. Breweries would grow quickly, then look to expand their brand, find themselves overextended and look to sell or close. Breweries that were proud advocates of the craft brewery boom, were now pariahs and seen as sell outs, losing their standing in the craft brewery movement. The flip side to this is that I can find Goose Island on tap and on shelves all over the Northeast. There is a Goose Island tap house in Philadelphia where I visited before I read this book, and had my first Bourbon County Stout and it was delicious. In the last several years, more successful breweries have been sold, many more have closed, and many have dug in, not being moved by the possible millions of dollars offered, and greater distribution, swearing to stay an independent brewer and live the life they choose to live. In this chaotic landscape, small independent breweries or brew pubs are popping up locally, and are able to live this life they have chosen, with out the desire to extend their brand, or become rich. The Coronavirus has put the survival of all these small batch breweries in peril. I hope that when all the dust settles, and we inch our way back to normalcy, we can do something to help these bastions of good beer survive. I love beer.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    This is an immensely readable and excellent book about the evolution of craft beer and the stealthy takeover by big beer aka Budweiser and Miller. Chicago's own Goose Island, a small family-owned craft brewery that opened in 1988 is the center of the story. I remember going there and thinking who would pay $5 for a beer? Until I tried it. It was unlike any beer I drank in Milwaukee when I attended college! My husband and I quickly became fans of the beer and the brewpubs. In fact, my husband sta This is an immensely readable and excellent book about the evolution of craft beer and the stealthy takeover by big beer aka Budweiser and Miller. Chicago's own Goose Island, a small family-owned craft brewery that opened in 1988 is the center of the story. I remember going there and thinking who would pay $5 for a beer? Until I tried it. It was unlike any beer I drank in Milwaukee when I attended college! My husband and I quickly became fans of the beer and the brewpubs. In fact, my husband started brewing his own beer and as a member of the Chicago Beer Society, attended meetings at Goose Island. The three times I ran the Chicago Marathon, the beer at the finish line was Goose Island 312 Wheat Beer. It was freshly tapped off of the Goose Island bus and it tasted better than anything I've ever had at a race. When rumors started spreading about Goose Island's sale to ABI, we, along with many Chicagoans, were shocked and saddened. The demise of the beer was predicted. Last summer, my husband and I attended a Cubs game at Wrigley. I was SO excited to see vendors selling cans of Goose Island 312. At $11 a can, it was pretty expensive, but I figured it would be worth it. The first sip was a shock. The beer tasted like Budweiser and that was not a good thing. My husband and I both thought it was awful. Our next beers were from the specialty beer stand inside the ballpark. I had Lagunitas. Now that's what I'm talking about.. I found this book just fascinating. Not just because of my history with Goose Island beer, but also the whole David and Goliath theme with beer. It seems that in pursuit of profits and market share, big beer is hell-bent on homogenizing our taste buds. Since craft beer is such a small part of the beer market, why can't they leave enough alone? Read this book--you'll be surprised to find out which craft beers are owned by big beer. I know I was. The author knows his topic and did his homework

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dancall

    If you see Goose Island beers in pubs and supermarkets in the UK it’s because they were bought a few years ago by the company that brews Budweiser. This book tells the story of Goose Island’s founding in Chicago, the creation of some of their greatest beers, the sale (‘Selling Out’) and what happened after that. Lots of great stories and great characters, and while it’s clearly great fun to start a brewery, it’s also very hard to grow one past a certain point, which is why selling to a multinati If you see Goose Island beers in pubs and supermarkets in the UK it’s because they were bought a few years ago by the company that brews Budweiser. This book tells the story of Goose Island’s founding in Chicago, the creation of some of their greatest beers, the sale (‘Selling Out’) and what happened after that. Lots of great stories and great characters, and while it’s clearly great fun to start a brewery, it’s also very hard to grow one past a certain point, which is why selling to a multinational with lots of resources was probably the best decision at the time. Craft beer is now about 12% of American beer sales, whereas in the UK it’s about 5%. This makes the book very timely for British drinkers, in the light of the recent (full or part) sales of some high profile craft breweries to ‘big beer’. By the end of the book Goose Island is still going strong, but the vast majority of Goose Island’s beer is now brewed outside Chicago. As the author puts it “Craft beer won: it forced the biggest beer company in the world to change. Craft beer lost: it had been commandeered by the biggest beer company in the world.” Essential for anyone interested in business or beer!

  11. 4 out of 5

    RuthAnn

    Thank you to Chicago Review Press for my free copy! My small town has a long tradition of craft beer, and as I read this book, I overlaid that history on the timeline of Goose Island's launch, development, and sale. In my town, the annual fall beer festival started in 1998, and the winter festival began in 2014. In the intervening years, so much happened in the world of craft beer, and this book is a clear, interesting take on those events. I appreciated the hometown spin from Chicago Tribune wri Thank you to Chicago Review Press for my free copy! My small town has a long tradition of craft beer, and as I read this book, I overlaid that history on the timeline of Goose Island's launch, development, and sale. In my town, the annual fall beer festival started in 1998, and the winter festival began in 2014. In the intervening years, so much happened in the world of craft beer, and this book is a clear, interesting take on those events. I appreciated the hometown spin from Chicago Tribune writer Josh Noel, and I felt that the objective journalistic style left the reader to decide if there were any good or bad guys. I love anything behind-the-scenes, and this book was like the most thorough brewery tour. I would definitely recommend it to a beer lover, especially if you have a mind for business. When I got into craft beer around 2012, I knew not to buy or order Goose Island. "It's really Budweiser," my more savvy beer friends said. We had plenty of selection in my area, so I never perceived a loss. Goose Island was one of a few breweries/beers I knew to avoid because of big beer acquisition, but over time, I lost track. Which ones don't we like any more? The author writes well about how Anheuser-Busch InBev intentionally obfuscated brands and beers to hide how beers were brewed, and indeed, question what really qualified as craft beer. There's another layer of the business end of the operation, with lots of detail about the mergers and acquisitions from that time, including stats on profitability and growth. A lot of that went over my head, but I appreciated the rigor, and I think those details would be of interest to someone who has interest in finance and investment.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kip Wood

    The story of the Anheuser-Busch takeover of Chicago brewer Goose Island in 2011. This was the first of ten craft beer acquisitions by AB in a six-year period. Goose Island IPA went from 35th to 3rd in total IPA sales because of AB’s vast distribution network. Was it a win or a loss for craft beer? They had to sell out to sell more.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah Bailey

    I'd like to slap the author silly for his overuse of the word "iconic". I was a die hard beer nerd during a lot of the years covered in this book. I consumed a lot of the beers mentioned, went to some of the festivals, and felt betrayed when I heard about the RateBeer buyout. At one time I was one of RB's top ten women raters. It was interesting to read some of the history of craft beer, and fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge. I'd like to slap the author silly for his overuse of the word "iconic". I was a die hard beer nerd during a lot of the years covered in this book. I consumed a lot of the beers mentioned, went to some of the festivals, and felt betrayed when I heard about the RateBeer buyout. At one time I was one of RB's top ten women raters. It was interesting to read some of the history of craft beer, and fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge.

  14. 5 out of 5

    mcq

    Great read that shows the evolution of U.S. craft beer by the story of Goose Island and the involvement of Anheuser Busch (AB Inbev). Interesting read for beer-lovers.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I really enjoyed reading about the many parts of this story including the establishment and growth of Goose Island, the development of Goose Island beers, the people involved, the good and the bad of selling to ABInBev, and even the business of craft and big beer. I found the tone informative and not inclined to favor big beer or craft beer except when conveyed by someone in the book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    M

    An interesting look into the world of both craft beer and 'big beer'. Prior to picking up this book, I had no idea just how powerful Anheuser-Busch is (or perhaps I should say 'was'). Nor had I ever heard of InBev. I have a lot to think about now when I go to bars or liquor stores! The reason I'm only giving this three stars is that occasionally the timeline here gets confusing. Noel takes us through the founding of a brewery called Goose Island that is eventually sold to InBev (by way of Anheuse An interesting look into the world of both craft beer and 'big beer'. Prior to picking up this book, I had no idea just how powerful Anheuser-Busch is (or perhaps I should say 'was'). Nor had I ever heard of InBev. I have a lot to think about now when I go to bars or liquor stores! The reason I'm only giving this three stars is that occasionally the timeline here gets confusing. Noel takes us through the founding of a brewery called Goose Island that is eventually sold to InBev (by way of Anheuser-Busch). Part one is told in a mostly linear fashion, as is the first third(-ish) of part two. But then the author starts branching off in multiple directions, taking us down a timeline from one perspective, then another, and then another - meaning that we get multiple views of, say, 2015. Because there are so many moving parts, this can make it confusing to remember who was doing what at any given point in time. It's a tricky conundrum because I think Noel was just trying to make sure he covered every aspect of the craft vs. corporate battle, and he chose to do so by following each group's timeline. That's a legitimate approach, but I think at parts it gets confusing. I kept having to double-check dates because I could've SWORN we'd already covered the year being mentioned. And we had - just from a different perspective. One other slight issue I had was that intentionally or not, Noel pushed the narrative of the 'scary foreign powers controlling our American businesses!' In the age of globalization, I really think we need to just move past this fear of non-American corporate interests. Are the billionaires behind InBev great guys? Probably not. Is the problem that they're from Brazil? Nope! America has its share of sleazy businessmen too. In fact, Noel mentions that Augustus Busch IV apparently killed a woman in an impaired driving accident and then fled the scene. He was never punished for his actions, and I think we can safely say that it's because his family had money and connections. I would argue 'the Brazilians' are not the only less-than-stellar people in this story. All that aside, I'd still recommend giving this book a shot if you're interested in the world of craft beer. Or beer in general, really - Noel gives a pretty good overview of the industry as a whole. There's plenty to explore here, and Noel is quite thorough in his investigation.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Fraser Kinnear

    Most of this book is a history of Goose Island Brewing, which broadly tracks with the history of the craft brew industry that blossomed in the past 30 years. I came of age drinking Goose Island, so really enjoyed picking up some historical context for what I was drinking. Noel also provides a fascinating look into the beer industry, and how it functions. Supply chain, marketing, and production are all covered, as Noel describes the imporance and role of distributors, the success of the 312 rollo Most of this book is a history of Goose Island Brewing, which broadly tracks with the history of the craft brew industry that blossomed in the past 30 years. I came of age drinking Goose Island, so really enjoyed picking up some historical context for what I was drinking. Noel also provides a fascinating look into the beer industry, and how it functions. Supply chain, marketing, and production are all covered, as Noel describes the imporance and role of distributors, the success of the 312 rollout strategy (including the "phone" tap, which was an early example of seeing the bar taps as a marketing space), and various challenges and processes in industrial-scale brewing (such as the challenges Goose Island had producing their 312 in InBeb's larger tanks, whose different geometry created different head pressure on the beer, and changed the flavor). From a generic business-book perspective, also interesting was how Goose Island leadership communicated the sale of their business to their employees. They brought in a crisis management firm, which gave this advice: "Speak in images, be concrete, tell the story that would be repeated over dinner tables that night. Employees would be scared - they wouldn't be able to visualize the future. Create the future that would put them at ease. Be confident and sincere, strong body language would follow." Not every lesson was as well developed as I would have liked. For example, I didn't really understand if the distribution tier in the booze industry was a phenomenon of regularion or not. And some business mechanisms like price anchoring were alluded to without really describing. All said, what puts this book above and beyond most similar business books is its tackling of a knotty social/ethical quandry: that of "selling out". Our celebration of excellence in performance oftentimes clashes with support of the "little guy". And while this narrative most often plays out in sports, I think it becomes even more interesting and nuanced in the world of brands and business. Goose Island's sale to InBev was the start of a massive and controversial wave of consolidation in the craft beer industry, which this book explores in detail. The defense from "big beer" sounds perfectly sensible on its face: "Great beer is great beer, and we should celebrate all of it". Responses from small craft players is some combination of big beer's practices being anti-competitive / unfair (e.g., in lobbying and economics) and big beer's long-term incentives prioritizing profit over quality / craft. Put one way in the book: "In reality... big beer was marketing in a glass. It was lobbyists and shareholders. Unconscionable tactics and obfuscation." This was well summarized near the end of the book: It big beer's most critical argument as the "us vs them" faultline grew: only think about what's in the glass. As long as drinkers bought into the sentiment, and didn't think about the strong-arm tactics that might have funneled that beer into their glass, they could be had by marketing and outsized influence they couldn't recognize. Sure, beers would need to think they chose what they drank, but there were a thousand quiet ways to help them reach that conclusion. As long as drinkers believed the only think that mattered was what was in their glass, they could be had. Beer drinkers were being socialized to believe that they should be buying exactly what big beer was selling, just as big beer had done for generations. Noel provides a variety of examples of anti-competitive practices "big beer" employs, mostly around manipulation of the B2B distribution layer of the industry (discounts, credit, marketing assistance), which end consumers are mostly unaware of. I would have liked to learn more about the lobbying efforts that big beer leveraged, but perhaps they are too diffuse and market-specific to easily report. Or, perhaps they just didn't really happen to Goose Island, and are a story for the other craft breweries beyond the scope of this story. In any case, the 'bad behavior" sounded like exclusivity tactics that are common in any industry, and are unavoidable or perhaps even healthy in a free market. On this vein, an absolutely fascinating example of manipulation from big beer wicked may at first come across as somewhat benign - an ad campaign to revitalize the Stella Artois brand image: Hitting the United States, Stella had been positioned as a brand of class and dignity. There had been a large investment in that image, as well as the fact that the original brewery behind Stella had dated to 1366, even though Stella debuted in 1926. The campaign pushed the elegance of Stella's stemmed glassware ("It's a chalice, not a glass" advertising proclaimed), and nine-step ritual pour (beginning with "Purification of the glass" and ending with "Bestowal upon the drinker"). Stella even got a tasteful SuperBowl commerical in 2011 (a handsome actor singing to beautiful women in a dim, smoky European club amid frosty chalices of stella). But most important had been the plan for Stella's rollout after the brand had been kicking around the United States for decaes as just another import. Rather than release the beer in a typical flood, AnheuserBusch InBev gave Stella to a handful of California wholesalers, who were told only to sell the beer to ten or so high end accounts at a time. Then, slowly, as Stella's buzz grew, so did the brand's footprint, until Stella was in every grocery store, and became "Beer of the Month" at Applebee's Restaurant in suburban Ohio. Snooty dig at suburban Ohio aside, I expect this kind of cultural engineering is perhaps what most bothers people about big brands. Through media influence, they create a lack of autonomy or at least awareness in their consumer base, who end up feeling taken advantage of if they are ever made aware. Or do they? What was wrong with Stella's brand to begin with - why is it's original neglect/mismanagement any more legitimate or less artificial than the reupholstered one? Isn't it simply that our relationship with any kind of brand at all, good or bad, the problem? Unfortunately, this "media studies" kind of question isn't really addressed by Noel, just alluded to. Another intersting example was the Superbowl ad that Budweister held that outright mocked craft breweries, at the same time that was buying them up. Should we be bothered that a single entity was speaking out of both sides of its mouth, or is this kind of personification of a company a silly or even pernicious thing to expect of a conglomorate? Addressing these questions would take the book too far afield, but this certainly serves as an interesting jumping off point.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Griffith

    A very well written book that gripped me immediately. I became aware of it through the Beer Advocate blog, where Josh Noel was given a forum to answer questions from regular people like me. I asked him something about the purchase by ABInv of Wicked Weed in Asheville, North Carolina in 1977, which was a very contentious topic on the blog at the time; and he answered very forthrightly and impressed me so much that I decided to read his book. I'm in the habit of reading several books at once, and g A very well written book that gripped me immediately. I became aware of it through the Beer Advocate blog, where Josh Noel was given a forum to answer questions from regular people like me. I asked him something about the purchase by ABInv of Wicked Weed in Asheville, North Carolina in 1977, which was a very contentious topic on the blog at the time; and he answered very forthrightly and impressed me so much that I decided to read his book. I'm in the habit of reading several books at once, and generally consider books on businesses to be insomnia cures, but I had a difficult time putting this down and raced through it to the exclusion of all else. Part of it is that I'm a big craft beer fan and can see both sides on this, so my interest was automatic. Second, this is an extremely well researched book including interviews with just about everyone involved in these matters, including some who would only speak anonymously. Part of the reason for this is Josh writes about beer for the Chicago Tribune but there's a difference between researching something poorly and doing a superlative job; and Josh did the latter. Finally Josh writes in an engaging style that flows very well. Josh presented arguments pro and con on the subject of buyouts of craft breweries by mega brewers. My default reaction is that the small brewers can do whatever they want with what they built but there are plenty of borderline sketchy things that ABInv and other biggies do that make you think WTF. Highly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Erik Surewaard

    When I did my MBA, I was confronted with many “cases”, i.e. a few pages with a description of a company and its problem(s) whilst operating in a certain industry. Well... this book is actually one giant case study:) It is a very good description in how the “craft beer” segment grew and how AB Inbev reacted on it by buying out individual micro breweries. In this book, a detailed description is given on how Goose Island grew from nothing to an individual brand generating over 70M USD annualy. It als When I did my MBA, I was confronted with many “cases”, i.e. a few pages with a description of a company and its problem(s) whilst operating in a certain industry. Well... this book is actually one giant case study:) It is a very good description in how the “craft beer” segment grew and how AB Inbev reacted on it by buying out individual micro breweries. In this book, a detailed description is given on how Goose Island grew from nothing to an individual brand generating over 70M USD annualy. It also gives away insights in innovations like barrel-aged beers. I really liked reading this book. It also gave good advice on follow-up books. I already ordered the book with the history in another micro brewery. After some thinking, I decided to give it a five star rating. I was also thinking a bit on four stars, but the combination of a lot of information Ingot from this book in combination of the enjoyment of reading it, I decided to give it five stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    I'm still pissed at Anheuser-Busch for that 2015 Superbowl ad, where craft beer is effete and Bud is for a man's man. Shit, I grew up in rural southern Iowa and the manly men there drink Busch Light, and woe unto he who shows up with a bottle of good craft beer. Even if that craft beer is flavorful and high alcohol, you're still a damn effeminate prick to them. I hate that big beer made idiots think Light beer (or Lite beer) is somehow masculine. I'm still pissed at Anheuser-Busch for that 2015 Superbowl ad, where craft beer is effete and Bud is for a man's man. Shit, I grew up in rural southern Iowa and the manly men there drink Busch Light, and woe unto he who shows up with a bottle of good craft beer. Even if that craft beer is flavorful and high alcohol, you're still a damn effeminate prick to them. I hate that big beer made idiots think Light beer (or Lite beer) is somehow masculine.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Woody Chandler

    I apologize for having been kind of lackadaisical in my reading habits since the end of SY 2017-'18, but with so much free time, I have been less motivated to read, which seems very ass-backwards for me. I have been into "better beer" since 1985 & my first overseas liberty port of Barcelona, Spain. I was 20 y/o, a young enlisted sailor in the U.S. Navy & this was the moment that I had been awaiting since Boot Camp graduation. We rarely got underway & when we did, it was to head south to the Carib I apologize for having been kind of lackadaisical in my reading habits since the end of SY 2017-'18, but with so much free time, I have been less motivated to read, which seems very ass-backwards for me. I have been into "better beer" since 1985 & my first overseas liberty port of Barcelona, Spain. I was 20 y/o, a young enlisted sailor in the U.S. Navy & this was the moment that I had been awaiting since Boot Camp graduation. We rarely got underway & when we did, it was to head south to the Caribbean. 8=( I had duty that first day in port & I watched longingly as people came & went, returning with great stories. "The Gut" was a long, narrow alley near the port where sailors could hang out & although it was not off limits, it was strongly warned against visitation. Naturally, we headed right there! About sunset, I heard strains of a Ramones tune emanating from one of the many side alleys & we went to see what gave. A mural of a spitting Sid Viscious adorned the front wall of the bar & as we entered, it was Stygian darkness. I was nominated to order as the head punk & the only one to have taken a foreign language in high school. No matter that it was French & we were in Spain. Our veteran bartender played me like a fish on a hook, but when he uncorked that first bottle of aged Chimay (Red) that he probably couldn't otherwise move & assured us that it was, indeed, beer, I became a convert. My career in the Navy allowed me the opportunity to drink a LOT of different beers & when I went to shore duty in Alameda, CA in 1987, I was eager to sample the local wares. It was when I retired in 1998 & read Lew Bryson's "Pennsylvania Breweries" (Vol. 1) that I really became immersed in beer. I started making the rounds of breweries, brewpubs, "better" beer bars & especially, brewfests. Soon, I had made a name for myself & later, a persona (or two). This book was great because it pulled back the curtain on the current interconnectivity between Craft Beer & Big Business. I don't really fault Goose Island for selling out to A-BInBev, but at the same time, if I was wavering about GI, I would now be hard-pressed to visit any of their outlets (read, PHL) or buy BCBS, things that I used to long to do. I noted several places in the book that were especially worthy of return - p. 120, 121: August Busch IV's unsavory past; pp. 179-182: the initial takeover of GI by ABInBev; pp. 190-194: Greg Hall's urinary gaffe; the inevitable shift from CHI to other-situated breweries. I could have gone on marking down passages, but at some point, I felt beaten. Beaten by the ravenous corporation that is ABInBev. Sure, MillerCoors exists & sure, my cousin, Colby Chandler, is now VP of Ballast Point by dint of their acquisition by Constellation Brands, but none of it has the feel of ravening greed exhibited by ABInBev. It was a quick, powerful read & one that may be of interest to people outside of the brewing world as acquisitions & mergers continue to take a sense of choice from all of us.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pippa

    3.5/5 Applause rises from the tightly packed crowd, punctured with a few boots and hollers. But there is also a curious sound: a smattering of boos. Gosh, this one took a while to read. Look, there is a lot that is really good about this book. It's stunningly written. It's well-balanced. The storytelling is pretty good. The self-aware drama of Josh Noel's writing is kind of perfect. Greg admired the artists who made beautiful things accessible to an urban lifestyle—the food of Paul Kahan, the music 3.5/5 Applause rises from the tightly packed crowd, punctured with a few boots and hollers. But there is also a curious sound: a smattering of boos. Gosh, this one took a while to read. Look, there is a lot that is really good about this book. It's stunningly written. It's well-balanced. The storytelling is pretty good. The self-aware drama of Josh Noel's writing is kind of perfect. Greg admired the artists who made beautiful things accessible to an urban lifestyle—the food of Paul Kahan, the music of Jeff Tweedy. Greg began to see himself in that vein. Wilco was Chicago’s music, Goose Island was Chicago’s beer. With all that this book had going for it, it's a shame that the narrative kind of loses its way about halfway through. If there's one thing Noel really shows about himself as a writer in the first half, it's that Noel knows how to build a character, introduce a background, flesh out a community, and really get a reader attached. When the inevitable happens, it should be completely heartbreaking. But it's just... not, really. And that's not because Noel convinces the reader that the turn of events is for the best (which I don't think he was trying to do). It's because at this point the story is so bogged down with business jargon and statistics and names that are either only mentioned once or only repeated about 100 pages apart. (My Dave Grohl/Nirvana geek brain loved the irony of the "Corporate Beer Still Sucks" slogan in reference to Kurt Cobain's "Corporate Magazines Still Suck" t-shirt - the former being used while the brand was owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev and the latter being on the cover of Rolling Stone. But I really ultimately thought chapters like that, where Noel narrows in on characters we will never see again to illustrate a point, were real missteps.) Few things could be less interesting to most beer drinkers than the politics of distribution. Ultimately, it feels like a book that is trying to do two things - follow the story of Goose Island on an intimate level, and give a complete, business-oriented, bird's-eye-view look at the history of craft beer development and acquisition in the United States. The former is Noel's strength, it's powerful, and you can tell that the writer really built a strong rapport with his interview subjects, and really took the time to get to know Goose Island. The latter is not, and it often feels like Noel may be just as lost as his reader is. 'It's like Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader and he's not there anymore. Some of the people might still be there, the body might be there, but the spirit isn;t. It became something else.' Maybe it's appropriate that what I loved about the book was something I thought it lost along the way - that is made the business of craft beer deeply human. It just didn't by the end.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Thorpe

    The book tells the story of America's craft beer industry through the lens of Goose Island, a Chicago based brewery that sold to AB In-Bev. It does four things over the course of the book and I think it's pretty remarkable that the author did all four of them well: (1) an economic history of how the beer industry grew in the 19th and early 20th century, consolidated in the 30s-80s, fragmented a bit in the 90s - 2000s, and has begun consolidating again as craft brewers ultimately sell to well fin The book tells the story of America's craft beer industry through the lens of Goose Island, a Chicago based brewery that sold to AB In-Bev. It does four things over the course of the book and I think it's pretty remarkable that the author did all four of them well: (1) an economic history of how the beer industry grew in the 19th and early 20th century, consolidated in the 30s-80s, fragmented a bit in the 90s - 2000s, and has begun consolidating again as craft brewers ultimately sell to well financed companies with better distribution and marketing (2) a personal story of John Hall and his son Greg, whose combination of business acumen (John) and passion for the craft of brewing (Greg) made a successful brewery that produced remarkable beers and set trends that influenced how Americans consume beer. Then contend with the soical consequences of selling their craft brewery to 'the enemy' and then ultimately become a bit of a template for dozens of folks in similar situations across the country. (3) a cultural history of the craft brewing industry itself, how it differentiated itself from mainstream beer, and how it struggled to maintain its orthodoxy over time as the very members who founded it joined with different economic models (4) a sort of business bildungsroman about how AB In-Bev went from well financed but hapless acquirer to a sophisticated cultivator of a portfolio of craft brands. In weaving these four threads, Noel does a remarkable job of not taking sides. He obviously has a soft spot for craft brewers: their dedication to a craft, their david vs goliath mentality. Despite that he does a nice job of pointing out the foibles of a counter-cultural movement that is, at the end of the day, a money-making business itself. He carefully exposes the ways in which the orthodox 'craft' culture had to make up an imaginary dividing line and then coerce its members to behave in a mean way toward people or brewers who fell on the wrong side of that line. In charting these personal decisions, hesitations, and friendships, he teaches us something about how orthodoxies work in all walks of life and that's a pretty cool achievement for a book I picked up to learn about IPAs. This sort of thing requires nuance to get right and Noel succeeds in making you feel like on one page you could take one side of this and then on the next you just have to take the other. That's just the product of great research and writing. What you are left with at the end of the day is somehow a series of deeply personal stories that can be inspiring, educational, disappointing, and heartbreaking. I loved reading the book and I only wish more industries received this sort of nuanced and thoughtful treatment.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Klobetime

    This is more than just the history of Goose Island Beer Company; this is the history of how Anheuser-Busch went from ignoring craft beer to trying to kill craft beer to (somewhat) embracing craft beer. Goose Island was founded in 1988 and fairly quickly established themselves as a solid brewer in Chicago. In 1992 they basically invented the bourbon barrel-aged movement with their Bourbon County Stout and placed themselves among the leaders of the growing craft beer movement. Around this sam This is more than just the history of Goose Island Beer Company; this is the history of how Anheuser-Busch went from ignoring craft beer to trying to kill craft beer to (somewhat) embracing craft beer. Goose Island was founded in 1988 and fairly quickly established themselves as a solid brewer in Chicago. In 1992 they basically invented the bourbon barrel-aged movement with their Bourbon County Stout and placed themselves among the leaders of the growing craft beer movement. Around this same time the explosive growth in craft beer started cutting into the profits of Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors so they did what any near-monopoly does: they tried to kill their competitors. This cold war between large and small brewers continues through today, but in 2011 a major shift happened: AB InBev bought Goose Island outright. This was seen as traitorous by the craft industry and the Brewers Association which governs craft reacted by officially defining craft beer as "small, independent, and traditional" which meant that Goose Island went from a leader in the industry to an outsider overnight. Noel does a good job of telling the story and showing the logic behind the decisions of the major players. He is fairly even-handed (if anything, he may have underplayed the outrage and sense of betrayal that occurred when the purchase occurred) and accurately noted that the craft beer community breaks down into two camps: people that care about how the beer tastes and people that care about who profits from the sales. (Personally I feel more of a kinship with the first group, but certainly understand the animosity towards "big beer" and their bully pulpit.) This is a fascinating and entertaining narrative, and Noel describes it well. His conclusion is spot-on, capturing the bittersweet result of the war. "Craft beer won: it forced the biggest beer company in the world to change. Craft beer lost: it had been commandeered by the biggest beer company in the world." First Sentence: On a Thursday evening in 1986, as a spring storm pounded the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, John Hall sat in an airplane on the rain-glazed tarmac and did something he would recount for the rest of his life.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    This book is a very accessible read into the world of craft beer, a movement that has been growing by leaps and bounds since the 1980s. I really hope Josh Noel writes more non fiction books because he has the touch. The book is a fantastic play-by-play of Goose Island's journey as a brewery, complete with all the emotions and facts. This is the talent of the author, his ability to not only convey what was actually taking place but the feelings behind the events. It is an emotionally charged book This book is a very accessible read into the world of craft beer, a movement that has been growing by leaps and bounds since the 1980s. I really hope Josh Noel writes more non fiction books because he has the touch. The book is a fantastic play-by-play of Goose Island's journey as a brewery, complete with all the emotions and facts. This is the talent of the author, his ability to not only convey what was actually taking place but the feelings behind the events. It is an emotionally charged book, right up until the emotionally charged final paragraph. This book needs to be read not just by beer lovers and beer business people but anyone interested in the world of business or sales and marketing, especially as it pertains to the food and beverage world. There are a lot of lessons packed into what happened to Goose Island and other small craft breweries. This is a true David vs Goliath journey and this industry is still evolving as I type. Our world laid "flat" by Thomas Friedman over 10 years ago in his groundbreaking tome is seen in full color between these pages, as InBev's strategies into the craft beer ecosystem of the United States reveal the clashes of their global, corporate value system hungry for profit at all cost vs those of the bootstrap experimentation just trying to find the funds to scale. This intermingling is immensely fascinating. My favorite non fiction of 2018 thus far.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    I sped through the Audible version of the book and liked it so much I purchased the paperback so I could go back and make notes, highlight passages, etc. It's an extremely well-written and well-researched book detailing not only the Goose Island history, but also the ripple effect its sale (as the first significant "craft" purchase by Anheuser-Busch) seemed to have on the craft beer industry. Craft-beer enthusiasts and beer history buffs will find a lot to like in this book. As a seasoned beer j I sped through the Audible version of the book and liked it so much I purchased the paperback so I could go back and make notes, highlight passages, etc. It's an extremely well-written and well-researched book detailing not only the Goose Island history, but also the ripple effect its sale (as the first significant "craft" purchase by Anheuser-Busch) seemed to have on the craft beer industry. Craft-beer enthusiasts and beer history buffs will find a lot to like in this book. As a seasoned beer journalist, Josh Noel does an exceptional job of writing a balanced account. All sides, it seemed, were represented fairly. It's interesting that Noel first approached John Hall not long after the sale about writing a book-length history of Goose Island. And then, in the seven years that followed, nine more "craft" purchases by AB-InBev helped the book become a much richer, broader view of the overall beer landscape. As craft breweries now exceed 6,000, yet it's sometimes difficult to determine what exactly is a "craft brewery," I think the post-sale commentary and analysis regarding the question: Do you know who brews your beer? is just as fascinating as the life story of Goose Island pre-AB-InBev.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

    This book is a look at the 30 year history of craft beer in America told through the stories of Goose Island Brewing Company and Anheuser-Busch InBev. The book is divided into two parts: the smaller, independent Goose Island prior to its acquisition by the larger international company, and the larger company’s relationship to craft beer in America. The book is well-written, well-researched, and tells a pretty good tale of the recent history of American beer through the lens of John and Greg Hall This book is a look at the 30 year history of craft beer in America told through the stories of Goose Island Brewing Company and Anheuser-Busch InBev. The book is divided into two parts: the smaller, independent Goose Island prior to its acquisition by the larger international company, and the larger company’s relationship to craft beer in America. The book is well-written, well-researched, and tells a pretty good tale of the recent history of American beer through the lens of John and Greg Hall - the father/son team behind Goose Island. Unfortunately many major influencers receives scant mention and many developments and trends are glossed over much more than I would care for. As the writer is based out of Chicago, he gives short attention to the West Coast birth of modern craft beer. (Full disclosure: I am a Californian who started drinking craft beer in the 1980s. I am biased.) Ultimately, the weakness of this book is that is written for people who care about beer. And the people that care about beer will have a strong opinion about Goose Island and Anheuser-Busch InBev. I found myself having a hard time caring about people who I feel have had a negative impact on the thing I love. That being said, I’m very glad I read it as it did give me some insight into events I didn’t know quite as well as I thought. In the end, I would recommend this book to people who have an interest in American beer but I do not think the audience extends much beyond that.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Mauch

    History and craft beer, what more could i ask for from a book? Sure, when I say history, I mean very recent history, but so what. I was sort of shocked by the depth of information that is presented in this work. I consider myself somewhat well versed in craft beer and some of it's history, but I learned a lot here, particularly when it came to the tactics used by Anheuser-Busch. I've always sort of considered them the enemy because they are competing with an industry I'm passionate about, but th History and craft beer, what more could i ask for from a book? Sure, when I say history, I mean very recent history, but so what. I was sort of shocked by the depth of information that is presented in this work. I consider myself somewhat well versed in craft beer and some of it's history, but I learned a lot here, particularly when it came to the tactics used by Anheuser-Busch. I've always sort of considered them the enemy because they are competing with an industry I'm passionate about, but the depth to which they tried to stifle craft beer were shocking. I knew about most of their acquisitions and good portion on their fake craft beers, but it was really the distribution tactics that were the most sinister and questionable. Goose Island's history was interesting as well, especially with so many people that were involved it its creation and sale contributing to the book, it really gave a great perspective on their role in both craft beer and with Anheuser-Busch. If you're even remotely a fan of craft beer or intrigued by corporate competition, give this one a whirl, it's a good read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ajk

    It's a nifty enough book to read a few minutes at a time on my phone -- more as a social media replacement than as an honest-to-god book. I don't mean that as a dig; Noel is a good and concise writer, and he does a good job of keeping what could be an enormous cast of characters manageable. I could never figure out if Noel was making fun of the Hall family or not. John Hall is...well, he's a Hinsdale executive who found out he could make a lot of money selling beer. There aren't a lot of heroes, It's a nifty enough book to read a few minutes at a time on my phone -- more as a social media replacement than as an honest-to-god book. I don't mean that as a dig; Noel is a good and concise writer, and he does a good job of keeping what could be an enormous cast of characters manageable. I could never figure out if Noel was making fun of the Hall family or not. John Hall is...well, he's a Hinsdale executive who found out he could make a lot of money selling beer. There aren't a lot of heroes, just cynical entrepreneurs and the folks they strung along. I'm not sure if Noel knows that or not, if I'm reading this book against the grain or not. The fact that the book is clear-eyed is great. It's not a diatribe either way. I think it could have been more interesting if it went into the second and third wave of brewers in Chicago, but it was clear that they wanted to keep the book national and not a Chicago story. It's an interesting book, that maybe could have been a bit more interesting (for me) and be less of a best-seller. It's all the same, a good book if you're interested in how the phenomenon of craft brewing began.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alec

    Man this was a great read. When I first started it, I didn't necessarily expect to get anything much out of it. I knew the story I thought. Bud buys Goose. Greg Hall pees in a cup at Bangers & Lace. Some of the beer gets shitty, but the stuff they sell in big bottles stays awesome. Turns out, all of that stuff is true, and I did already know it. It also turns out that there was so much more to the story. So much so that the endlessly fascinating context provided by this book feels like it barely Man this was a great read. When I first started it, I didn't necessarily expect to get anything much out of it. I knew the story I thought. Bud buys Goose. Greg Hall pees in a cup at Bangers & Lace. Some of the beer gets shitty, but the stuff they sell in big bottles stays awesome. Turns out, all of that stuff is true, and I did already know it. It also turns out that there was so much more to the story. So much so that the endlessly fascinating context provided by this book feels like it barely scratches the surface, and it's some of the deepest and best reporting I've ever read. Noel captures the personal and political aspects of one of the most fascinating industrial sagas of the 21st century in enthralling detail, and opens up the world in a way I really hope more people take the time to read and understand. Would strongly recommend to anyone interested in beer, industrial politics, or Chicago history.

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