Opinion: Days later, Elysian Brewing's sale to AB\InBev has a larger human cost then you realize.

image sourced from Elysian Brewing Company's website

Like the Roman god Janus, Elysian Brewing Company ends the beginning of their private ownership, with the sale to Anheuser-Busch \ International Beverage.

I'm not going to sugar-coat this. I'm fucking pissed right now. At whom is not who you would think. I'm pissed that Anheuser-Busch, instead of competing against the Brewers Association's members, has purchased Seattle's Elysian Brewing. And I'm not going to tear Dick Cantwell, Joe Bisacca, and David Buhler a new asshole over this sale either. I'm sure some of you have been doing that, ever since the news was announced.  

Rather I respect (er, accept) this is their business. I have to recognize that after 20 years, an opportunity had finally come, when they're ready to move onto the next chapter. After all, many people did not realize that back in 2000 Elysian was almost purchased by (gasp) Pyramid Ales.

Yep, in 2000, after 4 years of operating in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, the 3 owners met with (then CEO) Martin Kelly***, who discussed the possibility of ownership. To Joe, Dave, and Dick this wasn't the right time.  But it did inspire them to open Elysian Tangletown with it's own restaurant, bar, and brewery. Eventually they would open Elysian Fields and Elysian Bar, as well as build a production brewery in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood. But that's all history, as is Elysian's status as an independent business. 

I see this transaction as a reminder that without something tangible (a child, a sibling, an interested well-established brewery), Elysian would eventually dissolve, like so many naturally-carbonated bubbles. 

Without this sale, Elysian (potentially) risks receding back into the carapace at 1221 East Pike Street, from which it's growth came from. Without this sale, Elysian could eventually be managed by 1 or more exhausted owners, looking for a way to leave peaceably, while maintaining their dignity. With this sale Dick can continue brewing. With this sale Dave can continue selling beer. With this sale Joe can continue promoting Elysian in 1 of 4 pubs. All of which has come with a social-cost.

Elysian co-founders Dick Cantwell, Dave Buhler, and Joe Bisacca, at the new production brewery. sourced from WashingtonBeer.com

Whether I like it or not, this is the reality of success. It happens in ALL sectors of industry. Just talk to someone who uses MacOS or Windows and they will tell you the pains they experience, whenever Microsoft or Apple purchases a highly regarded start-up. Or ask anyone in the United Kingdom when their beloved Cadbury was purchased. In each case there was a collective battle-cry, followed by rounds of profanity and hate - before the magazine is empty and apathy sets in. 

As someone once told me - if you want to tell someone how to run a business, start your own. Otherwise you should shut up, drink up, or go somewhere else.

I'm here to ask for cooler heads during a time when we need to support those who do not benefit extraordinarily from this sale. I'm addressing the compliment of brewers, keg washers, bottlers, keggers, servers, janitors, bussers, dishwashers, cooks, and hosts who all stand to be minimized. I'm asking that if you no longer wish to support Anheuser-Busch \ International Beverage by consuming a bottle or pint of Elysian, if you no longer wish to visit an Elysian Bar or Restaurant, that you at least shake the hand of any employee when you see them, and tell them you still support them.

As for me, I'll still provide moral support to everyone. I've made many friends in my 16 years in the Pacific Northwest. So you'll forgive me if I don't immediately tell Elysian to go fuck themselves.



Required reading if you never heard of Elysian Brewing

Registered in 1995, the Elysian Brewing Company was conceived and executed by Joe Bisacca, David Buhler, and Dick Cantwell. Hard to believe that there was around 35 breweries in the whole of Washington state, when their dream was conceived. But it wasn't until 1996, that Elysian Brewing had a home for it's beers, at 1221 East Pike Street.

Original Elysian Brewing Company logo, sourced from "fueledbybeer.wordpress.com"

Registered in 1995, the Elysian Brewing Company was conceived and executed by Joe Bisacca, David Buhler, and Dick Cantwell. Hard to believe that there were around 35 breweries in the whole of Washington state when their dream was conceived. But it wasn't until 1996, that Elysian Brewing had a home for its beers, at 1221 East Pike Street.

Starting with a 20 barrel brewery from Newland Systems*,  Dick Cantwell established the brewery's identity while working alongside assistant brewer Kelly Miess**. From the beginning, the brewery produced around 8 'house beers' while promoting approximately 8 nearby micro/craft breweries.

Not wishing to simply be a brewery, Joe recruited the talent of independent chef Melissa Flynn, to author a kitchen menu. Cooked with and paired against Cantwell's beers, the brewery inspired the neighborhood's imbibers who were gasping for something different.

The co-owners of Seattle’s Elysian Brewing Co. — Joe Bisacca, left, Dick Cantwell, center, and David Buhler — are looking for a third pub in which to serve their prize-winning brews.
Elysian co-founders Joe Bisacca, Dick Cantwell, David Buhler. sourced from Puget Sound Business Journal.
Starting with the brewery's Capitol Hill neighborhood location, the owners of Elysian Brewing Company have been celebrating their dream for almost 20 years. During that time, the brewery on Pike Street has birthed a smaller restaurant & bar (Elysian Tangletown, 2106 North 55th Street), a larger restaurant and bar (Elysian Fields, 542 1st Avenue South), a production brewery, and a bar (1516 2nd Avenue). Through it all the brewery has taken the approach of slow and steady, during a time when many breweries sought immediate attention coupled with accelerated expansion.

Today the brewery produces 50,000 barrels annually - spread throughout restaurants, grocery shelves, sporting events, and of course Elysian's 4 eateries. Additionally the Elysian Brewery contributes to local charities like the Fisher House, through beer campaigns like their KISW Men's Room Red.

Elysian Brewing Company Inc. Founders
1995 David "Dave" Buhler: Former employee at Rogue Ales, Wyders Cider, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
1995 Joe Bisacca: Former Vice President at SeaFirst Bank, now owned by Bank of America.
1995 Dick Cantwell. Former brewer at Seattle Brewers (owned by the retired Duwamp's Cafe), Pike Place Brewing (today known as Pike Brewing), and the Big Time Brewery and Alehouse.

Starting Brewery - 1221 East Pike Street
1996 20 BBL Newland. Assisted by Kelly Miess.
1996 Elysian Brewing Company's initial core beers were Dragon's Tooth Stout, The Wise ESB, Dick's Pale Ale, and Minotaur IPA. Later the brewery released Pandora's Bock.

Kitchen Chef - 1221 East Pike Street
1996 Melissa Flynn. 

* Founded in 1990, Newlands Systems is headquartered at 602 - 30731 Simpson Road. Abbotsford, BC. Canada, V2T 6Y7. http://www.nsibrew.com/about-us.html
** Kelly Miess is former brewer at Thomas Kemper Brewing, Hart Brewing, and Pike Place Brewery. Today Thomas Kemper & Hart are known as Pyramid, while Pike Place Brewing has been updated to Pike Brewing.
*** Martin Kelly left Magic Hat / Pyramid / Portland brewing in 2010 after over 10 years.
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