“On Jan. 1, 30-year Anheuser-Busch veteran Andy Goeler will take over as Goose Island CEO and president”

Things just got real.

Beer geeks have had our collective noses pressed up against the glass at Goose Island, wondering how the takeover of the brewery by Anheuser-Busch might effect the quality of the beer.

Up until now, there was a safeguard in place – Goose Island founder John Hall was hanging around keeping an eye on his baby.  But that’s about to end.

I read the following bit of news in the Chicago Tribune (the online edition, not the physical paper – I avoid those because you can’t link to them. I tried once and wound up with newsprint stuck to my monitor for a month):

On Jan. 1, 30-year Anheuser-Busch veteran Andy Goeler will take over as Goose Island CEO and president, AB said in a memo to employees. Goeler has most recently served as AB’s vice president of import, craft and specialty brands.

Goeler has worked on Goose Island products for the last year, the company said, and aims for “further expansion of the brand nationally” and “growing the brands the right way.”

So let’s get this straight…Goose Island, which makes such delights as Bourbon County (add optional delicious ingredient here) Stout is being left in the care of the fella who recently oversaw AB’s imports, like Beck’s beer.

The same Beck’s beer that was recently the subject of a deeply unflattering profile in Businessweek that told the story of a loyal Beck’s drinker who noticed that his favorite beer suddenly tasted like crap.  After doing a little digging, he discovered that Beck’s was no longer an import from Germany, but rather was now brewed in the USA (a cost saving measure on AB-InBev’s part) and the quality of the product had suffered as a result.

This is exactly the kind of bean-counting-before-quality attitude that we’ve all feared might happen at Goose Island, and it’s now a step closer to becoming a reality with “30-year Anheuser-Busch veteran Andy Goeler” at the helm.

Here’s Goeler’s history with the company, courtesy of Businessweek:

Mr. Goeler has been held various positions in Marketing Division of A-B, including heading up the Bud Light and Budweiser brands since 1995. Prior to 1995, Mr. Goeler held various field sales positions, including Geographical Marketing and Executive Assistant to Vice President of Sales, and served in the Wholesale Operations Division. He has been a Director of Widmer since August 2005 and been employed by A-B since 1980. He served as a Director of Craft Brewers Alliance, Inc. from July 1, 2008 to June 29, 2011.

I’m not saying it’s a done deal that Mr. Goeler is going to water down Matilda to save 2 cents a bottle – he might be on strict orders to hold the line on quality and work to make Goose Island even craftier than before.  But I doubt it.  Still, he’s been banging around InBev’s craft beer portfolio for about seven years, so at least he knows the landscape.

At any rate, John Hall’s departure, along with that of Chief Operating Officer and 12-year Goose Island vet Tony Bowker, marks the moment that AB-InBev has severed its ties with Goose Island’s past and begins charting its own course into the future.

We will see where things go from here. If the quality remains, AND they manage to produce enough BCS to distribute the stuff to New Jersey, then maybe that’s okay.  But if the shelf space shenanigans begin, and the beer doesn’t taste quite as good as it used to, we’ll know that the heavy hands of the big boys have indeed strangled the life out of this once great Goose.

Only time will tell, and that clock truly starts ticking on January 1st, 2013.

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Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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24 Comments on ““On Jan. 1, 30-year Anheuser-Busch veteran Andy Goeler will take over as Goose Island CEO and president””

  1. John
    November 16, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Glad I got me 10 bottle of BCS this year because from now on they might SUCK! Gotta save a few for the opening of Big Dons Grizzly Beer Brothers Holiday Pub.

    • November 16, 2012 at 11:41 am #

      Just make sure the Bear doesn’t get a taste – he’s not worthy!!

      • John
        November 16, 2012 at 11:44 am #

        Dons the MAN! He should name his place Bourbon County Stout because by the time he opens the brand will be dead after Bud starts aging in plastic barrels to increase profits.

  2. November 16, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Rumor has it Idaho may see some BCS this year. Don may be able to put it on his shelves. (That is unless he drinks it all before he gets a chance to sell it.)

    • November 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

      Yeah, that’s like putting Winnie the Pooh in charge of all the honey.

      On Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 11:59 AM, Beer & Whiskey Bros.

  3. Diss Content
    November 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    It looks like the old guard at ‘Goose Island’, were frog marched out the door, by those goose stepping, fascist bully boys, from AB corporate, while issuing some press release that’s pure hog wash. (no animals were injured in the creation of that sentence)

    Here’s where the corporate mentality of brand recognition, collides with brand loyalty. Anyone who consumed ‘Goose Island’ in the past will instantly detect any recipe or ingredient modifications and vote with their wallets. This is a story told a thousand times over, but hope springs eternal. I mean, wasn’t there a Gucci AMC Hornet?

    • November 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      There was the “Maserati” that was a gently re-skinned Chrysler LeBaron, dunno about the fancy Hornet.

      More than likely this has been planned since the beginning. January 1 certainly doesn’t seem arbitrary, and AB was wise to keep these guys around until things settled down. Still, the future is now completely in the hands of the Bud Light people, so all bets are off.

  4. November 16, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    It’s not a bad idea to buy a case of BCS and save several bottles for a future three-way blind taste taste (not as sexy as it sounds) with the new stuff. Two of the tasters would hold one of the beers (new or old) against the other. The old BCS might need to be held for 3+ years to do it justice, since Goose Island may ratchet its costs saving measures a little at a time.

    • November 16, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      Yeah, I think that if changes are made, they’ll be incremental so as to not sound the alarm bells. And who knows, maybe the stuff will be great, maybe it’ll suffer, but I’m not sure I care. GI has been available around here for 6 month or more, and I still haven’t been able to bring myself to purchase any.

      Of course I haven’t seen any BCS, which I would know over an old lady to get my hands on. :)

  5. craigt126
    November 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    From what I understand, the two Goose Island pubs were not part of the deal and will still be making beer independently. So, while I’m now not quite so excited to finally get Goose here in North Carolina, I know I can at least go to the original pub for the beer I’ve loved since my first visit in 1995 (Tuesday, May 16th to be precise) when I go back home to visit my family. And while I’m there, I am going to fill up on their amazing pub chips – they are to snack chips what BCS is to stout! Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but not much.

    As for the issue at hand, I hope the big guys have learned, after their various failures at attempting craft styles, to leave well enough alone. AB paid a lot for Goose Island, so hopefully that means they’ll respect the beer. I know that’s a lot to ask, and probably a pipe dream, but I will hold onto my hopes ’til they prove otherwise.

    • November 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

      I think wait and see is the way to go. I’m not sure what’s up with the brew pubs, except that AB probably doesn’t want to be in the pub business…

      On Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 2:17 PM, Beer & Whiskey Bros.

  6. Jeff
    November 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Ugh…I was okay with a certain level of involvement from the Bud boys, so long as those whose passion created GI in the first place remained in place. This is deeply troubling. That being said, I scored myself a 4-pack of BCS this very afternoon.

    • November 16, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

      Well as long as you got your beer, screw the future! :)

      On Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 4:33 PM, Beer & Whiskey Bros.

      • Jeff
        November 16, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

        Well…yeah…duh. #YOLOLOL

  7. Michael
    November 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    Bottom line above all else. How many beers has AB actually raised to a new level?

    • November 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

      Ima find out, yo! (Sorry, went all Kanye there).

      I got a package with the three new Bud “craft” beers made by brewmasters at their various facilities. They’re supposed to be “elevated” as you say, and I’ll give them a fair shake (probably followed by a trip down the drain).

      On Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 4:45 PM, Beer & Whiskey Bros.

  8. Jeff
    November 16, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    I heard next year’s batch of BCS is being aged in industrial corn syrup drums.

  9. November 16, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    yea….i’m one bummed chicagoan. but, i will wait and see! that’s all i can do i suppose! or maybe stock up in the meantime??? haha!

  10. November 17, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    I won’t hold my breath. I would expect the new CEO to bring in his own staff–including his own CFO. As you say, the changes will probably be incremental as the money boys issue orders to cut costs here and cut costs there (gotta keep those quarterly dividends growing after all.) I wonder how BCS brewed from rice extract and artificial flavoring–aged 3 whole days over authentic wood chips–will taste?

    This truly bums me out as GI was kind of a link to my past–I grew up in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago–just a hop, skip and a jump from Goose Island. I don’t have ready access to Chi-style dogs, “real” Chicago Pizza, or Italian Beef anymore, but at least I could get a decent beer brewed right near my old stomping grounds. Alas, no more. But, bright thought, once it tanks, A-B-Inbev may put the old GI recipes up for auction.

  11. tallfellapgh
    November 23, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    Jim – No beer consumption in a week? Or just no beer blogging in past 7 days?

    • November 23, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

      No blogging. Crazy lately!!

  12. November 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    Sad to hear, but it figures. Honestly, and I’ll probably get some crap for this, but I have stopped buying Goose Island since the takeover. Now, it’s not that the quality has suffered, but it’s the simple fact that I don’t want even a penny of my money going to AB-Inbev. It sucks because Goose Island was great and I liked drinking their beer, but no longer will I support them.

  13. November 27, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    It’s too bad, but the writing was on the wall ever since AB-InBev bought Goose Island. This news is surely a bad sign for fans of this Chicago based company.

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  1. Let the Best Beer Win | Batch-22 - December 15, 2012

    [...] beer lookalike brands, and they’ve purchased beloved craft breweries like Goose Island outright, replacing the folks who built the place with their own mass-market [...]

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