The day Australian craft beer lost its innocence

As I stared at my phone, my first thought was it was a joke or hypothetical. Surely not. Not one of Australia craft beer’s most beloved producers and great ambassadors almost universally loved and admired for their gateways beers and their special releases alike; a longtime industry stalwart who had fought the good fight and won so often that they were making really headway across the nation for craft beer; surely they wouldn’t be selling out.

But it was true, Mountain Goat had sold out. Hot on the heels of US counterparts Lagunitas, Mountain Goat also cashed in by parting with ownership to a macro beer producer. And all that craft beer momentum and positive beers are a changin vibe documented on this blog and countless others over recent years, and for which Mountain Goat had played such a pivotal part, all seemed a little less righteous than it had only yesterday.

You see Mountain Goat were supposed to be the good guys and the big beer companies were the bad guys but now it all seems a lot more complicated. The truth is it probably always was.

Opinions seemed to divide roughly along 2 lines with little in between:

  1. Mountain Goat are sellouts, the beer quality is going to drop and I won’t buy their beer anymore.
  2. Congrats Mountain Goat, you deserve it and now I’ll be able to find your good beer more places.

Legitimate questions were raised like

  1. Can Mountain Goat maintain the quality of their beer under Asahi or will it decline?
  2. Will the bar and brewery and Rare Breed limited releases that don’t make a heap of money be a part of Asahi’s plans going forward?
  3. Are Mountain Goat still a part of the craft beer family or did they just give up their membership?
  4. After 15 years of creating a brand around their independent microbrewery status, are they deserting their values for money here?
  5. if you had millions waved under your nose would you have the cojones to say no?
  6. And who’s next to go?

Whatever side of the fence you fall on, I completely understand why you would feel that way about it. I’m still straddling. On the one hand, I do see the eminent danger in giving up control over the direction and values of something that you’ve so carefully set up and nurtured to be a counterpoint to the very likes of the company that bought you. It would be sad to see Mountain Goat become something other than the great symbol of Australian craft beer it has become.

On the other hand, Mountain Goat becoming more available across Australia could be a very good thing and besides Asahi were already brewing their core beers anyway. Plus a lot of other Victorian craft beers these days like 3 Ravens, Temple and Kooinda are no longer owned by their brewer/founders who set them up anyway so what’s the difference between private investors and a bigger company really?

Either way you choose to look at it, we can all cheers to what Mountain Goat was: their brewery bar still ranks as one of my favourite Friday night drink spots; their quality core beers such as the Hightail ale have been great for craft newcomers and vets alike; and their excellent limited release Rare Breeds and collaborations over the years with the likes of 7 Seeds, Mikkeller, and Lark whisky have pushed the boundaries of taste in beer in Australia.

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