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Anheuser-Busch acquires Chicago craft brewer

March 28, 2011
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Goose Island, a Chicago-based craft brewer, agreed to be acquired by its current distribution partner Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis. Goose Island is a craft brewer with sales concentrated in the Midwest. The acquisition will bring additional capital to Goose Island’s operations and meet growing consumer demand for its brands, the company said.

Anheuser-Busch will purchase a 58 percent equity stake in Fulton Street Brewery LLC (FSB), which is Goose Island’s legal name, from its founders and investors, which is held in Goose Holdings Inc. for $22.5 million.

Goose Island brands have been distributed by Anheuser-Busch since 2006 as part of an agreement with Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., a co-founder of the Craft Brewers Alliance (CBA), the Portland, Ore.-based company that owns the remaining 42 percent of FSB. CBA agreed in principle to sell its minority stake in Goose Island to Anheuser-Busch for $16.3 million. Anheuser-Busch holds a 32.25 stake in CBA.

In 2010, Goose Island sold approximately 127,000 barrels of its signature beers, which include Honkers Ale, 312 Urban Wheat Ale and Matilda.

“Demand for our beers has grown beyond our capacity to serve our wholesale partners, retailers and beer lovers,” said John Hall, Goose Island founder and president, in a statement. “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 as Goose Island chief executive officer and will be responsible for Goose Island beer production and the expansion of the Goose Island’s Chicago brewery, which will remain the base for the company and its production. To help meet immediate demand, an additional $1.3 million will be invested to increase Goose Island’s Fulton Street brewery’s production as early as this summer, the company said.

As part of the CBA’s agreement to sell its 42 percent stake in Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch will provide enhanced retail selling support of CBA brands, will reduce distribution fees payable by CBA to Anheuser-Busch and will provide CBA additional flexibility with respect to future acquisitions and divestures, the company said.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including obtaining required regulatory approvals. It is expected to close in the second quarter of 2011.

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