If you are in the beer business this is a must read.
If you are interested in a startup business, family relations or the biggest beer company in the world, you want to read this book.
Josh Noel does a great job of weaving together the story of John Hall and his son Greg building a brewery for over 25 years and then how they turned it over to the world’s largest beer company. Of course reading this book from the perspective of being in a brewery, I could relate to all the ups and downs of building a business. Trying to find a beer style that people enjoyed, finding the right people to work with, and of course getting the equipment to work. The insights of how Greg Hall and his brewery, Goose Island, created some of today’s beer styles was fascinating. — If you enjoy barrel aged stouts then you owe a toast to Goose Island.
Noel details the struggles that many breweries face with the Three Tier Alcohol Law that was created after prohibition. The three tiers are producers, distributors and retailers. The basic structure of the system is that producers can sell their products only to wholesale distributors who then sell to retailers, and only retailers may sell to consumers. Goose Island had issues getting any distributors to take them on at first and then had to find one that would be able to support their growth. Anheuser-Busch InBev became the best fit, but not after going through lawsuits to get out of their first distributor.
The other issue that Noel outlines in the book is how Anheuser-Busch over the years had a stronghold on the Three Tiers and controlled both the production and distributors. This made it difficult for small producers (breweries) to get into the marketplace, and in the end gave the consumer less choice. The book does a great job of clearly outlining the struggle between “craft” beer and “big” beer. In 2011 Anheuser-Busch InBev bought Goose Island and was the first of many craft breweries AB InBev bought over the last ten years and their move into “crafty” beer.