Is Your “Craft Beer” Actually Owned by A Beer Giant?

Tell me if this experience sounds familiar: you stop at your local gas station with a fantastic beer selection to pick up a six pack of a beer you haven’t tried yet. You tell your buddy about this great new “independent” brewery, only to learn that it was purchased by one of the beer giants a couple years ago. You are likely not alone. In recent years, the craft brewery industry has seen a significant uptick in both acquisitions from larger breweries and "copy-cat" beers made by beer giants, such as Anheuser-Busch InBev (“ABI”) or MillerCoors.

Goose Island Brewery might be the most well-known version of this story. For years, Goose Island operated as a relatively small-scale brewery in Chicago. It was founded in 1988 but gained notoriety in the mid-nineties. By the early 2000’s it reached a whole new level of success with the emerging return of the craft beer industry.

In 2011, Goose Island announced a sale of its brewery operations to Anheuser-Busch InBev for $39 million. This acquisition had major implications; on one hand the product was immediately connected to a larger distributor network, but on the other hand many locals felt that their local brewery was no longer “local”.

Goose Island is not the only beer that is often mistaken for being a true independent craft beer. In fact, several other major beer brands are routinely mistaken as independant craft beers, such as Redhook (35% owned by ABI), Magic Hat (owned by Florida Ice and Farm Company, a Costa Rican food & beverage giant), Third Shift (owned by MillerCoors), and Kona (also 35% owned by ABI).

According to an article on, ABI alone has purchased four American craft breweries since 2011: Goose Island Brewing in Chicago; Blue Point Brewing in Patchogue, N.Y.; 10 Barrel Brewing in Bend, Ore.; and Elysian in Seattle. It’s no secret that the major players will continue to infiltrate the craft beer market, however their methods of doing so will certainly remain under-ground.

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