Goose Island Brewing Company

Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer Fest: A Review

Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune attended the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer, which recently took place in Chicago. His takes on the 14th edition of this event:

  • The beer is good, and getting better. He rates 20 percent of the beers “genius”, and another 60 percent “good to very good”. The “undrinkable” beers likely sat in the barrel too long.
  • John Laffer, the co-founder of Off Color Brewing in Chicago, has emerged as a star. He’s an alumnus of Goose Island Brewing Company’s barrel-aging program.
  • Festival-goers didn’t shun Goose Island on account of it having been taken over by Anheuser-Busch. If the beer is good, they want it.
  • It’s possible to brew bad sour beer. The style “requires layers and nuance.”
  • The best thing about the festival is discovering new beers. One, in particular, was Peach Climacteric from Colorado-based WeldWerks Brewing. Co-founder Neil Fisher was amazed that attendees knew so much about his new brewery. fisher said, “You guys have a very connected beer culture here.”

The Friday Mash (UN Edition)

Seventy years ago today, representatives of 50 countries meeting in San Francisco signed the Charter of the United Nations. The UN’s original five Security Council members were the U.S., Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the Republic of China (Taiwan)–which shows up in this week’s Mash.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Chicago, where Goose Island Brewing Company is launching a series of beers brewed by its alumni. First up is Greg Hall, who returned 27 years after his first day on the job.

Duquesne Brewing Company is rolling out a beer honoring Joe Paterno. Part of the proceeds from the Vienna-style lager will go to charities chosen by the late coach’s family.

Carlsberg Brewing, with 8 percent of the world beer market, is pitching a line of grooming products to the men who drink its beer. The product line includes shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion.

Beer has been linked to “man boobs”. But even though hops contain phytoestrogen, it’s found in many other foods. The real culprit is calories, not beer itself.

Chestnuts aren’t just for roasting on an open fire. Dennis Fulbright, professor emeritus at Michigan State University, says they make for sweeter, smoother beers—which are also gluten-free.

A Portland, Oregon, a beer hall that opens next month will pay its workers at least $15 an hour, and will enforce a no-tipping policy. Beers, sandwiches, and sausages will cost $6 apiece.

Finally, the Wunderman Taiwan brewery gave a new meaning to starting a “buzz.” It dressed up drones as bees to deliver its new Honey Beer to office workers.

The Friday Mash (San Diego State U. Edition)

On this day in 1897, San Diego State University was established. The 35,000 students at SDSU have an amazing selection of craft beer to choose from. At the end of 2014, the county had nearly 100 breweries and brewpubs.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Houston, where the Texas Beer Refinery has opened for business. Its fermenting tanks and brew kettles have been made to look like refinery towers from a distance.

Goose Island Brewing Company’s 20-year-old brewery on Chicago’s Near West Side will start offering tours and tastings later this month. The tasting room will also offer growler fills.

Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company has brewed a beer to benefit James Madison’s Montpelier. Ambition Ale, “a beer with checks and balances,” will be available in central Virginia this summer.

Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen, Oregon’s largest-selling craft beer, is now co-branded with Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers. Both the brewery and the team are Portland institutions.

Goldcrest 51 beer was popular in Memphis until the Tennessee Brewing Company closed its doors in 1955. Beer writer Kenn Flemmons plans to revive the beer this spring, using the original recipe.

A federal appeals court has ruled that Flying Dog Ales can sue Michigan for damages over its refusal to approve the label for Raging Bitch IPA. The state’s decision was overturned in court.

Finally, a new beer from Maine’s Allagash Brewing Company honors cherry farmer Nancy Bunting, who supplied it with thousands of pounds of cherries. Allagash has donated part of the proceeds from “Nancy” to a charity that helps farmworkers with health problems.

Bourbon Barrel Stout: Where It Began

Last week’s Friday Mash linked a story about Black Friday beer releases. Most of those beers are stouts, and many are barrel-aged. Barrel-aged stout, in turn, was created more than 20 years ago at the Goose Island Brewing Company in Chicago. It’s called Bourbon County Brand Stout, and it’s one of the more famous beers in American brewing history.

Bourbon County was created by brewmaster Greg Hall, who has since moved on to make cider in west Michigan. To this day, Goose Island follows Hall’s recipe faithfully. It uses barrels from six or seven different bourbon distilleries. The brewery requires 3,000 barrels to age a full batch of Bourbon County and its variants. Those barrels have become hard to find because so many breweries are making their own barrel-aged beers.

Because of Bourbon County’s yeast strain, and the need to ferment the beer inside the barrels, the brewers have found it’s best to start the aging process in late summer. Changing seasons and their often-extreme climates—Goose Island’s home is Chicago–are crucial to Bourbon County’s ultimate taste. Warm temperatures makes the wood expand: beer seeps into the wood, and takes on vanilla and roasted flavors. When cold weather arrives, the wood contacts, and the bourbon is pushed out of the barrel and into the beer.

It takes at least a full year of changing seasons until the beer matures. Thus August and September are hectic months at Goose Island because brewery staff have to bottle the previous year’s batch while pouring the current year’s batch into the barrels. Just in time for Black Friday.

The Friday Mash (MTV Edition)

On this day in 1981, MTV began broadcasting in America. Pay attention to this factoid, because it comes up often in pub trivia: MTV’s first video was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Chicago, where Ian Hughes, a brewmaster at Goose Island Brewing Company, is trying to educate people about the importance of clean water, the main ingredient in Goose Island beers.

Canadian actor Seth Rogan got to fulfill his dream of drinking beer from the Stanley Cup. P.K. Subban, who plays for the Montreal Canadiens, earned an assist for pouring beer into the trophy.

The list of exotic ingredients in beer now includes seaweed. Marshall Wharf Brewing Company adds 66 pounds of Maine sugar kelp to 200 gallons of its Scotch ale to brew a batch of Sea Belt Ale.

In Indiana, a newly-passed law lifts the 67-year-old ban on beer at the State Fair, which opens today. Last call is at 8 pm, and fair-goers will be limited to three 12-ounce beers.

Tech companies in Boston are using craft beer to attract and retain talented employees. Journalist Dennis Keohane decided to investigate the tap selection at some of the area’s leading companies.

In San Francisco, a woman in the outfield seats got a rude surprise: a home run ball landed in her beer. Not only was she soaked with beer and out $8, but someone else wound up with the baseball.

Finally, the Michigan Brewers Guild has responded to heavy demand for tickets to the annual Winter Beer Festival by adding an evening session to next year’s event in Grand Rapids.

The Friday Mash (B&O Railroad Edition)

On this day in 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was incorporated. Can you name the other railroads on the Monopoly board? Time’s up. They’re the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Reading Railroad, and the Short Line.

All aboard!

We begin in Brazil, where the Polar brewery has an invention that will make it easier to converse in bars. It’s a beer cooler that cuts out GSM, Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G, and 4G signals.

California’s drought could make your Lagunitas IPA will taste different. The Russian River, which provides Lagunitas with its water, is drying up, and brewery might have to find another source.

Beer was the headline ingredient in last Sunday’s “Chopped” competition on the Food Network. The show, with Stone Brewing Company’s Greg Koch as a judge, airs again on Sunday evening.

Higher zymurgical education awaits in the form of Joshua Bernstein’s new book, The Complete Beer Course. It contains a series of “classes” devoted to families of beers.

On Tuesday, when he was in Chicago to announce the award of a federal manufacturing grant, President Obama put in a plug for Goose Island Brewing Company’s “superior beer.”

A Korean romantic comedy in which the female lead makes chimek to celebrate winter’s first snow has Chinese viewers clamoring for the dish, which is Korean for “fried chicken” and “beer.”

Finally, a gathering of 490 Yelp members at Santa Anita Race Track might set a new Guinness record for beer tasters. We hope they bet on Ambitious Brew, who won the $100,000 Sensational Star stakes race.

Greg Hall Moves On

The Internet has been–pun intended–all atwitter over Goose Island Brewing Company’s acquisition by Anheuser-Busch, and most of the commenters have taken a dim view of what’s happening. Time Out Chicago located Goose Island’s brewer, Greg Hall, who explained why the deal is good for the brewery and for himself.

Now Hall is looking forward to a midlife career change. He told Time Out: “I’ve already done the beer stuff. I’ve created a new style in bourbon stout, I’ve brought wild fermentation beers to a food community and the masses, and there’s gotta be at least a dozen Goose brewers working as head brewers around the country and I’m terrifically proud of that. Now it’s time for something else.”

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