In 1995, after cutting his teeth at a number of Seattle breweries, Dick Cantwell founded Elysian Brewing with a few of his former coworkers. Over the next decade or so, they expanded and eventually opened a massive production facility of their own, right at the same time Anheuser-Busch InBev embarked on its craft brewery buying rampage, kicking off the spree with its acquisition of Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company in 2011.
This tracks with ABI’s general MO whenever a new, potential threat emerges in the alcoholic beverage space: It ignores it at first, then try to copy it, and finally buy out all the competition. It was all a matter of time before an executive from the beverage giant approached Cantwell with an offer to purchase Elysian. He reluctantly shared the news with his business partners, and to his surprise, it was dollar signs in their eyes. Come 2015, Elysian officially handed over its keys to ABI.
The dust had hardly settled on the acquisition by the time the Super Bowl rolled around in January and Budweiser’s chest-beating ad “Brewed the Hard Way” took its 60-second stage. In the ad, Budweiser took the opportunity to punch down at the entire craft brewing industry on the biggest stage in the world, shocking the craft beer world. Cantwell was one of the individuals watching in shock as the ad depicted mustached hipsters sniffing barleywines out of tulip glasses while the words “Budweiser is brewed for drinking, not dissecting” flashed across the screen.
Today on “Taplines,” host Dave Infante is joined by Elysian Brewing co-founder Dick Cantwell himself for a look back at that pivotal moment, and to discuss ABI’s mask-off mudslinging at America’s microbrewers, despite the fact that it was actively buying into the segment. Tune in for more.