Beer Birthday: Sarah Huska

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Today is the 25th birthday — how is that possible? — of Sarah Huska. Sarah is the program administrator for the Cicerone Certification Program that Ray Daniels founded. I got to meet Sarah while I was in Chicago for CBC last year, at the Siebel open house. You can also read much more about Sarah at her featured beer tweeter interview/profile at Drink with the Wench. Join me in wishing Sarah a very happy birthday.

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Sarah with Ray Daniels at the Cicerone booth at last year’s CBC in Chicago.

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Sarah with Nico Freccia, from 21st Amendment.

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Sarah, building a bridge with Nicole Erny, also with the Cicerone program, and Justin Crossley of the Brewing Network trying to cross it.

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A bottle of New Glarus and AleSmith? That must have been one great evening.

[Note: all photos purloined from Facebook.]

Anheuser-Busch InBev Buys Goose Island

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I received a press release this morning that Anheuser-Busch InBev is buying a controlling interest in Goose Island Brewing. ABI will pay $22.5 million for a 58% share of the Chicago brewery and the remaining 42% currently owned by the Craft Brewers Alliance will be sold to ABI for an additional $16.3 million in cash, bringing the total price of the sale to $38.8 million. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that “[a]n additional $1.3 million will be invested to increase production at Goose Island’s Fulton Street brewery” and that the “transaction is expected to close by the end of June.”

From the press release:

Chicago-based Goose Island, one of the nation’s most‑respected and fastest-growing small brewers with sales concentrated throughout the Midwest, today announced it had agreed to be acquired by Anheuser‑Busch, its current distribution partner, in a move that will bring additional capital into Goose Island’s operations to meet growing consumer demand for its brands and deepen its Chicago and Midwest distribution.

Goose Island’s legal name is Fulton Street Brewery LLC (FSB). Anheuser-Busch reached an agreement to purchase the majority (58 percent) equity stake in FSB from its founders and investors, held in Goose Holdings Inc. (GHI), for $22.5 million. Craft Brewers Alliance Inc. (CBA), an independent, publicly traded brewer based in Portland, Ore., that operates Widmer Brothers, Redhook and Kona breweries, owns the remaining 42 percent of FSB and reached an agreement in principle to sell its stake in FSB to Anheuser-Busch for $16.3 million in cash. Anheuser‑Busch holds a minority stake (32.25 percent) in CBA.

Goose Island sold approximately 127,000 barrels of Honkers Ale, 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Matilda and other brands in 2010. To help meet immediate demand, an additional $1.3 million will be invested to increase Goose Island’s Chicago Fulton Street brewery’s production as early as this summer.

“Demand for our beers has grown beyond our capacity to serve our wholesale partners, retailers, and beer lovers,” said Goose Island founder and president John Hall, who will continue as Goose Island chief executive officer. “This partnership between our extraordinary artisanal brewing team and one of the best brewers in the world in Anheuser-Busch will bring resources to brew more beer here in Chicago to reach more beer drinkers, while continuing our development of new beer styles. This agreement helps us achieve our goals with an ideal partner who helped fuel our growth, appreciates our products and supports their success.”

Hall will continue to be responsible for Goose Island beer production and the expansion of Goose Island’s Chicago brewery, where production will continue and its business will still be based.

“The new structure will preserve the qualities that make Goose Island’s beers unique, strictly maintain our recipes and brewing processes,” Hall said. “We had several options, but we decided to go with Anheuser‑Busch because it was the best. The transaction is good for our stakeholders, employees and customers.”

Anheuser-Busch has distributed Goose Island brands since 2006 as part of an agreement with Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. of Portland, Ore., a co-founder of CBA, that provides Goose Island access to the network of independent wholesalers that distribute Anheuser-Busch beers. Anheuser‑Busch also provides logistical support to all Anheuser‑Busch wholesalers distributing Goose Island and CBA beers as part of that agreement.

“These critically acclaimed beers are the hometown pride of Chicagoans,” said Dave Peacock, president of Anheuser-Busch, Inc. “We are very committed to expanding in the high‑end beer segment, and this deal expands our portfolio of brands with high-quality, regional beers. As we share ideas and bring our different strengths and experiences together, we can accelerate the growth of these brands.”

The two Goose Island brew pubs are not part of the deal, but will continue in operation, offering consumers an opportunity to sample Goose Island’s award-winning specialty beers and food selections.
As part of CBA’s agreement to sell its 42 percent block in FSB to Anheuser-Busch, in addition to cash, Anheuser-Busch will provide enhanced retail selling support for CBA brands, will reduce distribution fees payable by CBA to Anheuser‑Busch and will provide CBA additional flexibility with respect to future acquisitions and divestitures.

In a separate press release today, Goose Island announced that Brett Porter will become Brewmaster of the production facility, replacing longtime brewmaster Greg Hall. Porter’s most recent brewing job was with Deschutes and he’s also brewed at Portland Brewing and a couple of UK breweries.

UPDATE: Goose Island founder John Hall has released a short statement about their acquisition by ABI, which they call a Special Announcement.

Make A Pipe Dream Come True: Invest In Pipeworks Brewery

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Looking for a unique gift for yourself or a loved one? Why not invest in a brewery? Seem like a pipe dream? Well, then the Pipeworks Brewery may be for you. Two self-avowed beer geeks living in Chicago, Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis, are trying to raise enough money to make their dream of starting a small brewery a reality. They’re using Kickstarter to raise the $30,000 they need to fund their little brewery. So far, they’ve raised just over $17,000 with 20 days to go. That means they need to find another $13,000 before the end of the month.

Kickstarter is great. I’ve contributed to help fund projects before using it and it’s a great tool for microbusinesses and microfinancing. It’s a fun way to help people out, even strangers, if you like their idea. I’d encourage you to check out all the cool projects trying to get off the ground there. There are projects in Art, Comedy, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film & Video, Food, Games, Journalism, Music, Photography, Technology, Theater, and Writing & Publishing. For each project, the people lay out their idea and provide different levels of investment for you to pledge, and usually each level of participation gets you something related to their idea as a thank you. There’s a set time within which they have to reach the amount of money they need. If they don’t reach their goal, you don’t pay a dime, but if they do then your pledge kicks in and then (and only then) your account is charged. It feels very satisfying to help someone realize their dream, or at least kick start it. Not only are you helping fund an idea you believe it using alternative financing but you’re also building community at the same time.

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For the Pipeworks Brewery project, you can pledge as little as $5 or as much as $10,000. There are a dozen different levels available you can choose from to help them get started. You can read their story at the Kickstarter website, where they also post regular updates. But here’s the short version:

Pipeworks began as…

the dream of a couple of beer geeks right here in Chicago. Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis started their adventures in fermentation within the plastic buckets and stovetop kettles of the home brewer. The two met while working at West Lakeview Liquors, a mom and pop liquor boutique on the north side boasting one of the best beer selections in the world. It wasn’t long before they began dreaming up plans for their own craft brewery.

In January of 2009, after some persistence, the Pipeworks boys landed an apprenticeship in Belgium with Ratebeer.com’s 2008 Brewer of the Year, Urbain Coutteau of De Struise Brouwers. Living and working alongside Urbain, the Pipeworks crew honed their skills,learning the traditions of Belgian brewing while mastering some innovative new techniques. To document these brewing adventures the boys started the popular Buckets to Barrels Blog hosted on De Struise’s site.

Pipeworks is…

— Beejay Oslon, a native of Chicago who began home-brewing while attending art school. Beejay serves as the head brewer, with over five years of experience in both brewing and craft beer retail. Through his experiences as a fine artist and graphic designer, he also serves as the creative director for Pipeworks.

— Gerrit Lewis, a transplant from the brewery-rich Colorado, armed with a sharp palate and lust for everything beer.He spends his time (and lots of his money) visiting at least one area beer store a day, seeking out the newest craft beer releases. Gerrit attended Loyola University Chicago Business School and considers himself a savvy and aggressive fresh-faced marketer.

And below is funny video that should get you fired up about their project.

To learn more about Pipeworks Brewing Co., you can visit their website, their blog or their Facebook page.
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The Chicago Beer Market

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Chicago Business has a lengthy, but interesting, article online about the beer market in the windy city. It’s entitled Pay-to-play infects Chicago beer market, Crain’s investigation finds, and was written by a trio of reporters: James Ylisela Jr., David Sterrett and Kate MacArthur.

Corruption, of course, infects virtually all business everywhere and while Chicago has an elevated reputation because of its history, it seems to me what is exposed here is happening in many places. When it comes to the smaller breweries, most just understand that they can either go along with it or not, based on their own individual company philosophy. I don’t think it makes any one of them good or bad, it’s just different responses to the markets in which they’re trying to sell their products. In a sense, there’s a trade off with the three-tier system. It has advantages and disadvantages that manifest themselves in different ways in different states. That’s what the film Beer Wars tried to expose, which is simply the uneasy way in which the beer industry actually works.

But give it a read and let me know what you think. Oh, and be sure to read all the comments, too.

Small Town Stupidity

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The most recent issue of Reason magazine arrived yesterday, and I stumbled on this little tale of small town stupidity from Quincy, Illinois. A man living there, Jonathon Schoenakase, suffered the loss of a good friend at the hands of a drunk driver. His response was unusual and was an incredibly positive reaction to a very emotional incident. He started “Courtesy Rides,” a free service in town offering rides for people who’d had too much to drink to get them home safely.

Stupidity #1

All well and good. He had a lot of takers for the free service and added a second car and then a bus to the fleet. Schoenakase supported his efforts on donations and tips. But that made the taxi drivers in town nervous and they lobbied the city council to change the law, which they did, specifically so Schoenakase would be required to buy a license.

And that brings us to the first stupidity. One reason the taxis were upset is because Schoenakase had a competitive advantage by virtue of being unlicensed. Taxis are not allowed to work past midnight, but bars in Illinois don’t close until 2:00 a.m. and some clubs at 4:00 a.m. Now why the fuck would you intentionally have a law that makes it harder for people who may have been drinking to get home safely. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. And wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to simply change the law to allow taxis to operate after midnight than make Schoenakase have to license his free rides. In any event, the sheriff denied his application.

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Stupidity #2

Right or wrong, Schoenakase continued to operate his free Courtesy Rides and the only complaints that police have received have come from the rival taxi drivers. He’s now been arrested twice in sting operations. Police “caught him” in the “illegal act” of accepting tips from riders. But Chief of Police Rob Copely admitted there wasn’t really a problem to begin with. “Under questioning from aldermen, [he] said the police department hasn’t received any significant complaints about Courtesy Rides.”

Copley also revealed that police used a sting-style undercover operation on several occasions to see if Schoenakase would try to coerce a tip or donation from a passenger who declined to give anything for a ride. Each time, he said, Schoenakase did nothing onerous to demand any kind of compensation.

Apparently that’s just how they treat good Samaritans in Quincy, Illinois.

Online, the Reason article, though slightly different from the print version, put it this way.

When you’re charging for something and someone else figures out a way to offer it for free, normally you’re SOL. Unless, of course, you happen to be operating in a regulated industry with licensing requirements—and you happen to have the ear of the city council and/or the chief of police. Then there’s another, more appealing alternative: You can make the competition illegal.

But I think Jalopnik in writing about the story summed it up best:

We understand the police are just following the law, but this entire situation stinks like a three-days-worn t-shirt off a drunk’s back. A guy goes out of his way to reduce drunk driving in his town, an effort he’s doing to honor his dead friend, and the city shuts him down at the behest of a taxi company. Real nice work there. If nothing else how about just give the guy his $10 license and be done with all this pointless nonsense.

Reason even picked Quincy Police Chief Rob Copely as their Nanny of the Month for August of this year.