Beloved Seattle brewery bought by Anheuser-Busch

A beloved local brewery is selling out. Beer giant Anheuser-Busch is buying longtime Seattle sweetheart Elysian Brewing. Eric Wilkinson reports why it has some worried about the watering-down of the city's strong beer scene.

SEATTLE -- The brewery that declared "corporate beer sucks" has gone corporate.

Anheuser-Busch announced Friday that it has purchased Seattle-based Elysian Brewing Company.

Elysian was founded in 1995 by Joe Bisacca, Dick Cantwell and David Behler. Prior to the sale, the company was made up of four brewpubs and a production facility in Seattle.

Head brewer Cantwell said he was ambivalent about selling, but in a press release he stated that Elysian joined Anheuser to "bring that energy and commitment" to beer "to a larger audience."

In addition to being a well-known local brewery, Elysian has also experimented and produced more than 350 beers over almost 20 years.

Elysian's story is an impressive one. The brewery grew slowly but steadily from its original Capitol Hill location to four bars and now produces more than 100,000 kegs of beer a year. It's the fastest growing brewery in Washington, which made it ripe for the picking.

Small brewers are consistently taking more and more market share from mega-producers. Instead of trying to beat them, the Budweisers of the world are buying them.

While there are no expected layoffs or closures with the buyout, and the founders will maintain local control of the brewing, beer blogger Paul Orchard (nwbeerguide.blogspot.com) believes there will likely be a backlash from local beer snobs.

"I think those who care a great deal about supporting local, privately owned beer are going to reassess whether they want to support a brand like Elysian," he said.

"If they don't keep their quality up, it's a rich environment in Seattle. There are plenty of others that will come in and take their place," said beer drinker Coby McGuire.

Anheuser-Busch is part of Belgian based Anheuser-Busch InBev. It was purchased by the Belgian-Brazilian brewing company for $52 billion in 2008.


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