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Elysian founder quits after AB takeover

Elysian brewery co-founder and head brewer Dick Cantwell – widely regarded as a pioneer of the US craft brewing scene – has resigned following the company’s acquisition by Anheuser Busch in January.

Elysian Brewery, based in Seattle, was bought by AB in January (Photo: Elysian)
Elysian Brewery, based in Seattle, was bought by AB in January (Photo: Elysian)

Quitting yesterday from the Seattle brewery, Cantwell said in an email to the Washington Beer Blog that Elysian’s takeover by brewing giant Anheuser Busch was the reason for his departure, as he is a “craft brewer, past, present and future.”

He said, “The tenor of the deal, mainly from the point of view of my former partners and me, was such that I can’t possibly work with them into a future of any duration. My concerns were never even considered as a factor… From the start it was me against everyone else, with no regrets expressed.”

Anheuser Busch purchased Elysian in January for an undisclosed sum. Andy Goeler, CEO of AB’s craft beer division, said at the time: “Elysian’s story includes everything we look for in a partner,” continuing, “we look forward to working together”.

However, following the news of Cantwell’s resignation, Goeler has been reported in the Puget Sound Business Journal saying, “I feel fortunate that I was able to get to know and work with Dick over the past couple of months, he is a true pioneer within the craft beer industry. His input and opinions have been incredibly valuable to both me and Anheuser-Busch.”

Elysian, founded in 1995, sold more than 50,000 barrels of beer in 2014, with its flagship Immortal IPA accounting for more than a quarter of those sales.

Dick Cantwell, left, co-founded Elysian in 1995 (Photo: Elysian)
Dick Cantwell, left, co-founded Elysian in 1995 (Photo: Elysian)

Addressing his time under Anheuser Busch, Cantwell said in his announcement, “In the past few months AB has treated me with consideration and seriousness, and they’ve presented me some pretty exciting future possibilities, should I be able to see my way clear to working for them. But I can’t.”

Anheuser Busch – the US arm of global drinks producer AB InBev, has been rapidly expanding its craft beer portfolio recently. Last year, AB acquired New York-based Blue Point along with Oregon-based 10 Barrel Brewing, adding to its 2011 purchase of Chacago’s Goose Island brewery.

According to the definition of “craft” decided by the American Brewers Association, the fact that AB owns more than a 25% stake in these companies means they can no longer be regarded as craft breweries.

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