On how his own role has changed with the company since Anheuser-Busch InBev bought the company for $39 million, Hall says that he is more hands-on now than he had been prior to the sale. In addition to the fact that the brewery is seeing rapid sales growth, much of it has to do with the departure of former ‘Chief Beer Officer,’ Greg Hall (John’s son).
Though Greg’s primary role was Brewmaster through last spring, he was also the face of the company and John says that he has stepped back into that role.
Greg’s departure had nothing to do with the sale though, says John. Before talking to Anheuser-Busch about an acquisition, Greg was among those in management that agreed that having the conversation made sense. Greg informed John six weeks before they were set to close the deal that he wanted to leave and start his own company. While Greg still acts as a consultant to the brewery, his focus is now on Virtue Cider, the company he founded last fall.
On the beer side, Hall credits the A-B InBev acquisition with freeing up some much-needed capacity at the Fulton Street brewery location in Chicago.
A-B’s Baldwinsville, New York, plant is producing all of the company’s 312 Urban Wheat now while Redhook is producing beers like Honker’s Ale and IPA. Label approval came in during May showing that Honker’s Ale, IPA and Harvest Ale may now be brewed in Baldwinsville as well.
Those contracts have effectively helped enable the company to produce more beer (over 50% growth in 2012) and spread it farther. For example, earlier this year, the company went deeper into New England and Mid-Atlantic states with more of the portfolio, not just the limited beers.
Goose Island brewers can also now focus more on the innovation side of things.
Hall hopes to put in a purchase order very soon for four new 400-barrel “Matilda” fermenters which the company should have in place at Fulton Street by the start of next year.
Goose Island is also going to install a new 750ml bottle packaging line that will be used for the Vintage Ales. That should, again, be in operation close to the first of the year. They will be using crowns with sleeves over them instead of corks and cages. The Vintage Ale line is currently sold in 22 oz. bottles.
Provided everything goes well and the beer is ready on time, they are also planning to release “more than twice as much” Bourbon County Brand Stout this year as they have ever released before in a single year. Hall laments that they weren’t able to get out as much BCBS in 2011 as they had in 2010 due to capacity constraints.
Finally, Hall mentions that they will release a new beer in their Vintage Reserve series, a strawberry saison called Gillian, this fall.
While there are other new beers listed on the 2012 calendar, those were not discussed during the interview.