Chicago bar owners wonder about Goose Island's future

March 29, 2011

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(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Bar owners around Chicago are trying to figure out what the acquisition of Goose Island will mean to them.

Anheuser-Busch purchased Chicago-based Goose Island in a deal worth $38.8 million. Goose Island's CEO John Hall said the acquisition doesn't mean the recipes are going to change.

"If you've got problems with the quality or anything like that, you can call me up," Hall said.

Hall said the brewery will keep operating in Chicago.

Goose Island has earned a reputation for its craft brews as much as for its more popular drinks like Honkers Ale or 312. But bar owners like Phil McFarland, who runs Small Bar in Chicago's Ukranian Village neighborhood, said he's conflicted about the merger.

"I don't guess that Anheuser has bought them to make Budweiser knock offs and part of the appeal of a brewery like Goose Island is that they have the recipes they do that have the, sort of, respect in the market that they have and from a business point of view, I would have to think they'd be sort of crazy to mess with that too much, but time will tell," McFarland said.

Meanwhile, Chris Staten, the Beer Editor of Draft Magazine, said the acquisition shows Anheuser's further commitment to the craft brew market.

Hall said the company couldn't brew some of its specialty beers fast enough to keep up with demand and the deal with Anheuser-Busch will help with that.

"Chicago is going to continue to be our principle market," Hall said. "We will probably expand into some new markets, but we're not going to do any of those things until we supply the markets we're in right now."

Hall said Goose Island's roughly 120 employees will still operate in Chicago.

The deal still needs the approval of regulators, which is expected to come later this year.