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LOVE IT or hate it, big beer is increasingly investing in craft as evidenced by Anheuser-Busch buying Seattle’s Elysian Brewing Co., further expanding its portfolio. The company has been combatting soft sales by buying up increasingly popular craft brewers. While nationwide beer sales declined 1.9 percent in 2O13, craft beer sales rose 17 percent, according to the Brewers Association. Anheuser-Busch announced in November that it was buying 1O Barrel Brewing of Oregon, raising the ire of many of its fans. That follows the purchase of Blue Point Brewing Co. on Long Island, New York, earlier in the year. It bought Goose Island Beer Co. in Chicago in 2O11. InBev also has a one-third share in a Northwest group that produces Red Hook, Widmer and Kona beers. Anheuser-Busch and Elysian say the deal will bring the brewer’s popular beers – most notably Immortal IPA – to a larger audience. The deal includes Elysian’s brewery business and its four Seattle brewpubs. It is expected to close by the end of the first quarter.

Elysian was founded in 1995 by Dick Cantwell along with partners Joe Bisacca and David Buhler, who will stay on following the acquisition. The company is the fastest-growing brewery in Washington State. It sold more than 5O,OOO barrels of beer in 2O14, with Immortal IPA accounting for more than a quarter of the company’s total volume. It also makes a beer called Loser Pale Ale, which says “Corporate Beer Still Sucks” on its packaging. The beer celebrates Seattle-based independent music label Sub Pop Records and the line is a nod to the “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” T-shirt Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain once wore the cover of ROLLING STONE. Cantwell acknowledges that now the joke has another layer, but says the Elysian will keep brewing Loser Pale Ale after the acquisition is complete. The founders say they recognize some fans may be upset by their decision to sell to Anheuser-Busch, but say little will change. Elysian’s beer is distributed in 11 states in the US as well as Canada, Taiwan, Australia and Japan.