2018, Books, Non-Fiction

Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business (2018) by Josh Noel

This is a readable, engaging, informative and, I think, pretty fair book about the AB InBev purchase of Goose Island and the broader beer landscape in North America. I love beer, and I thoroughly enjoyed some of these Goose Island beers, and I definitely prefer independent breweries to macros. So I am clearly Noel’s target audience. But I think this book is probably interesting enough even if you are not into beer to the degree that I am.

Noel does a good job telling the story of Goose Island as representative of the craft beer revolution but also unique within it. Goose Island is a relative rarity for back then given that it was founded by an entrepreneur, rather than a brewer. And I think this story is important in understanding what happened.
Noel is pretty fair to the Halls, fairer than I think a lot of people from within the craft beer world would be.
He also does a good job of trying to see the other side, though I feel like his fairness wanes a bit as the book goes on. In the early stages, he goes out of his way (at least as far as I’m concerned) in trying to explain where Anheuser-Busch, and later AB InBev, is coming from. Given how easy it would be to portray them – especially AB InBev – as an evil corporate villain.

If I have any nitpicks, they are few. One is that the book leaves its chronological story very quickly and, especially the second half, it can be a little tough keeping the timeline in mind except when there’s a list. I can also see the final few chapters being a bit repetitive for anyone who is not into this world.

Still, I really enjoyed this book and I’m very glad I read it. I wasn’t aware of every brewery in here that “sold out” but it’s also good to know why.


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