Elysian and AB-InBev. Brewers not Nazis




The betrayed are out in force on twitter. “Goodbye Elysian” “Last time I EVER drink Elysian Beer”

“Traitors!”  “Sell outs!”

It was as if the founder of Greenpeace had just joined ACME petrol-chemicals Inc. and personally dumped toxic, radioactive waste directly on a whale’s head while laughing maniacally!

I realise that the craft beer is more than just great beer, carefully brewed by bearded artisans in railway arches and barns behind a pub. It has become a political movement that reflects the campaigns against the 1%, a liquid counterpart to ‘farm to fork’ and locavore groups.

The best breweries not only make the best beer, but often become successful. They need to expand and become …… Big! Big is not a word that fits well with an industry that started as home-brewers selling their liquid gold as a nano or micro brewery. The reality is that as Sierra Nevada and New Belgium are available around the world and Boston Beer Company required the Brewers Association to change their definition of ‘Craft Beer’  to maintain their good-for-marketing label. The other side of this success coin is that those that are a manageable mid-size, and enjoy cult status as well as high desirability have and will become targets for takeover. This is not new or exclusive to the brewing industry. T’was ever thus.


The accusation that owners Dick Cantwell and David Buhler have ‘sold out’ is tough. If you had built a business from scratch, worked evenings and weekends, cleaned out lauter tuns and fermentation tanks in the dead of night, drove from store to bar to sell your beer when no one was particularly interested, you might be tempted too. They can now keep on brewing, inventing great beers in their own brewery and know that their retirement and family are covered financially until the day they ‘call time’ on this mortal plane. Isn’t that the point of working hard all our lives?

You may be disgusted by their actions, and I am very disappointed, having visited Seattle many times and visited their bar and looked forward to every release that made it to the bar I managed in Vancouver. I do however, understand them.

Craft beer has evolved into quasi political movement, but not everyone is on-board with that!

So, boycott the beer if you must. (You’ll be missing out on some great brews!). Tell people of your disappointment. There is no point spouting hatred to the level that social media seems to propagate.

They are brewers not Nazis.




4 comments to Elysian and AB-InBev. Brewers not Nazis

  • AB’s business practices are predatory. See: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2013/12/why-one-craft-beer-lover-wont-buy-big-beer.html You can say the local boys done good are not Nazis, but this is not a good deal for the community. AB is essentially the Walmart of beer.

  • Hi Paul,
    Thanks for the comment! I am just making a broad point that some of the social media vitriol has been aimed more at Elysian owners than ABI. I just sympathise with them a bit. I am however very disappointed with the move, but a wheelbarrow full of cash must be hard to refuse, and I’m sure many of the haters might not be so ethical if they were given the same opportunity.
    I was unaware of the practices by ABI in Illinois. So thanks for that link. It seems they are a bit worse than the other Macros. I agree my hard earned cash has so many options now, so avoiding macro-craft is easier than ever! Just a shame as Elysian is so damn good!

  • BW, thanks for the courtesy of a response. I’d probably have a hard time turning down the dough, but we all hope (I think) in our heart of hearts about hearing stories that defy the conventional wisdom. Had Elysian reported that they refused AB, and chosen to stay small, or regional and start a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds they needed, what a story THAT would have been. But the deal makes Seattle a little more corporate, a little more conventional and let’s face it, the conventions of capitalism are literally destroying the planetary biosphere. I think Seattle people like renegades, like people who oppose conventional wisdom, so you’re feeling the disappointment.

  • I realize this was tough news to hear all around because Elysian Brewing is right up there with other notable names in the US craft brewing industry (IMHO) such as: Ninkasi Brewing, Brooklyn Brewing, Alaskan Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing for starters. My disgust came primarily how AB bought them out, then promptly kicked them while they were down with their Super Bowl Ad (We all know the one). Buying out another company is one thing (we’ve all seen it) but to take pot shots at them in a passive-aggressive fashion is more like tyranny than financial acquisition. I elaborate more here ; http://beerlearnerblather.blogspot.ca/2015/01/sell-out-or-crafty-business-deal.html
    Great post BW, I always enjoy reading your blog.

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