Saturday 10 August, 2013

Goose Island Spreads Its Wings

Sofie and Matilda




Is there any serious beer fan who doesn’t know Goose Island? The Chicago craft brewer celebrated its 25th anniversary this Spring, and while the beers haven’t been available nationwide until more recently, their reputation for passion and quality certainly preceded them. To celebrate the anniversary and concurrent expanded distribution, Goose Island has been hosting a […]




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Is there any serious beer fan who doesn't know Goose Island? The Chicago craft brewer celebrated its 25th anniversary this Spring, and while the beers haven't been available nationwide until more recently, their reputation for passion and quality certainly preceded them.

2013-07-09 18.41.18

To celebrate the anniversary and concurrent expanded distribution, Goose Island has been hosting a Summer-long series of "Migration Week" events, sampling the beers in cities across the US. I got to attend one of the first a few weeks ago in Los Angeles, but the series continues on in select locales.

Today, August 10, in fact marks the Los Angeles Craft Beer Crawl, during which Casey's Irish Pub downtown will be pouring Goose Island beers including Sofie, IPA, and 312--and in the "special session," Bourbon County Coffee Stout and Lolita. And in a few days, Migration Week finally hits New York City, where GI will be pouring a huge portion of their portfolio at Pennsylvania 6.

At the prior LA event, atop the Standard Hotel Downtown, I got to sample four of GI's finest with Senior Brewer Keith Gabbett himself, which, even if you're a little bit geeky, is pretty cool.

Sofie and Matilda

Sofie and Matilda

"A lot of what I want to do with beer comes from the food I eat and cocktails I drink," Keith tells me while we sample Matilda (inspired by the story of the Abbaye of Orval), a soft spicy-sweet 7% abv Belgian Pale Ale made with three malts and three hops--and clearly excellent food partner.

Next we split a bottle of Sofie (named for the master brewer's daughter if I remember correctly), a 6.5% Saison a.k.a. Belgian Farmhouse Ale that's considerably more delicate, taking flavors from orange peel and blood orange juice (with a velvety vanilla finish).

Just fortheheckuvit I try 312, one of GI's mainstay beers, a nice solid 4.2% "Urban" Wheat Ale dominated by Cascade hops, that reflect the hardy nature of its hometown. It's not necessarily my thing, but I can understand why it has fans.

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Last and definitely not least, I got to try a sample of the incredible Bourbon County Stout Rare, 100% malt, 14.3% abv, aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels for over two years. And, wow. Big bad flavors of chocolate, coffee, cherry vanilla and a little toast...only 200 barrels made. What to pair this with? Absolutely nothing, I'd say, it's an incredible experience by itself.

"Mostly what we like to do is push boundaries," Keith says matter-of-factly. The way that GI does that, with so much less of the bravado you see from other edgy brewers, somehow makes their product even more appealing. Goose Island makes some 30 variations these days, experimenting with barrels, fruits, bottle aging, and collaborators ranging from Chef Rick Bayless to the Pitchfork alternative music festival (not quite sure how that works, but...sure).

"It's a great time to be a craft drinker," says Keith, clinking glasses. Clearly, understatement is another of his talents.

 

Selfie with Brewer

Selfie with Brewer

 

Goose Island Beer Company


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