The recent announcement that Goose Island was to be bought by AB InBev has got me thinking about the future of craft beer and what the future may hold for the fledgling Irish craft beer scene.
I am a big fan of Goose Island's IPA as well as their Honkers Ale and so I greeted this news with mixed feelings. On the one hand I lamented the fact that a great craft brewery had succumbed to the corporate greed of the brewing behemoth, however in retrospect I think that this augers well for Goose Island. For me personally it should certainly mean greater access to their beers as they make use of the global distribution network of AB InBev. Also if reports are to be believed, it appears that Goose Island will still operate as is, with very little input from AB InBev in relation to brewing operations, marketing and product development. This should allow the brewery to grow and prosper, opening up their quality product to a wider market. From an AB InBev point of view it would seem that this deal has lots of positives. They are buying a proven and quality brand. They are tapping into a market, that while currently small, is growing year on year. Lastly they are expanding their product range, so that when you or I walk into a bar or off-licence, they will probably have a product that meets our needs regardless of our taste in beer.
But how will all of this play out in our little craft brewing backwater of Ireland. I think this deal will have one major long term effect, and that will be to open up the market for Irish craft brewers to prosper. If AB InBev put a small fraction of the capital they put into promoting their mainstream brands into promoting Goose Island then it is safe to say that in the medium to long term we will all be drinking more Goose Island. We taste Goose Island, we like it, our interest expands, we try other beers we may not have heard of etc etc etc.
I cannot envisage a day when Trouble Brewing, Metalman, Dungarvan Brewing or any of our other indigenous craft breweries would catch the eye of a Diageo or AB Inbev, but you never know what the next 10 or 20 years will hold for these fledgling enterprises. Hopefully as they begin their journey it will help their product reach a wider market and lead to more choice for beer lovers.