Address: 1800 W Fulton St Chicago, IL 60612
You know when you’re in Chicago you HAVE to stop by one of the breweries who started it all; hence why eatingwithlittlemariii and I went to Goose Island Brewing Company?!
This was the first brewery stop we did while we were in Chicago and I have to say, it kind of ruined it for the rest of them, because with the tour itself and the beer that was available in the taproom, the bar (no pun intended) was set REALLY high.
From their website: Our History: Our famous beer began with a trip across Europe, when Goose Island founder (and unabashed beer lover) John Hall took a tour across the continent. Pint by pint, he savored the styles and selections of brews in every region, and thought to himself, “America deserves some damn fine beer like this, too.” Craft brewing wasn’t widely known at the time, but upon return from his European sojourn, John set out to change all that. He settled down in his hometown of Chicago—a city perfect for craft beer, with rapidly evolving tastes and the largest system of fresh water on the planet. And then he got to brewing. First he made some stellar beer. Then he invited his consumers in to watch his process at the brewery, bringing them behind the scenes every step of the way. The result was a new fascination with craft brewing, and beer that not only catered to people’s tastes, but challenged them as well. That was back in 1988, and we haven’t slowed down since. By 1995, John’s beer had become so popular that he decided to open a larger brewery, along with a bottling plant to keep up with demand. 1999 brought even more growth, along with an additional brewpub, and today, what was once one man’s pint-filled dream has become the Goose Island empire you know and love.
*Fun fact: The day they opened their doors was on a Friday the 13th in the year 1988.
Our Brewery: Our brewery was built in 1995 and has more than doubled in size since originally built. We bring you our tasty pints using 32 fermenters, over 15 different yeasts, state-of-the-art filters, centrifuges and a 50 barrel JV Northwest 5 vessel system that brews 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It turns out that making awesome brews is quite the science. Luckily our brewery facilities have all the equipment necessary to deliver results. Our packaging line alone bottles 500 cases an hour, with our keg line at a rate of 50 kegs every 60 minutes. Once the beer is complete, we store it at a crisp 38 degrees until shipping. In other words, we don’t mess around when it comes to filling the Goose Island demand. We even have separate rooms to house small batch innovation programs and yeast propagation units, and our barrel-aged beers have their own dedicated stockroom AND 143,000 square foot barrel warehouse. It’s only the very best equipment for our beer—and we invite you to learn more.
Our Hops: Tucked away in a secluded valley in Northern Idaho is Elk Mountain Farms – the place where Goose Island hops are grown and harvested. Head Farmer Ed Atkins shares the same passion and commitment to great beer as our brewers, and together they’ve worked to grow the farm from a 70-acre operation to a 1700-acre hop heaven. Here, over 50 different types of hops, including Goose Island favorites like Saaz, Amarillo and Cascade are cultivated along with numerous experimental varieties that could one day push the boundaries of beer for drinkers and brewers alike. Elk Mountain is more than just soil and plant life; it’s a laboratory, a studio, a blank canvas on which to paint the future of Goose Island beer.
Our Barrels: In 1992, Goose Island gave the beer industry a new reason to belly up to the bar: bourbon-aged beer. We pioneered the process, and it begins with first-use bourbon barrels. Our brewers only choose those that have had held sweet, sweet whiskey in their bellies for an average of 8 years, then they age our beer inside for 8-12 months. This process takes place in a non-climate controlled space, allowing exposure to the extreme heat and cold of Chicago’s ecosystem, which contracts and expands the wood, pulling the barrel’s whiskey character into our brew. Each barrel is used only once, ensuring the best quality taste in every pint. That first barrel-aging process yielded our ever-tasty Bourbon County Stout back in 2004. Three years later, we decided it was time to expand our barrel-aging program again. But this time our brewers brought wine barrels into the picture. They started with beer that had undergone primary fermentation in stainless steel casks, then transferred it to wine barrels, soaked with flavor. Next came fresh fruit and wild yeasts, and the beginning of a secondary fermentation inside the barrel. Aging went on for 9-18 months, creating beer with unprecedented depth of character, increased acidity and a light essence of fruit without too much sweetness. The variety of wine barrels we use now yield some of our most unique brews, including Sofie, Juliet, Lolita, Madame Rose, Gillian and Halia.
*Fun Fact: Their Bourbon county stout was submitted at the Great American Beer Festival when they first started brewing it and it was disqualified because they didn’t have a category for the percentage of alcohol in that beer (Usually the category topped off at 10% ABV). So basically, Goose Island started the barrel aged beer category at the GABF the next year.
Now while Goose Island does still have full control over what goes on within the brewery (as it seems) they did get bought out by Anheuser-Busch InBev back in 2011.
Here are the explanations from the brewery:
Honkers Ale [English Style Bitter (4.3% ABV/ 30 IBU)]: Inspired by visits to English country pubs, Honker’s Ale combines a spicy hop aroma with a rich malt middle to create a perfectly balanced beer. Immensely drinkable, Honker’s Ale is not only a beer drinkers can trust but one they’ll look forward to.
Cooper Project No. 3 [Barrel Aged Porter (8.3% ABV/ (N/A) IBU)]: The Cooper Project is a rotating series of new recipes that highlight Goose Island’s expertise in bourbon barrel-aging. The third release of 2017, this Barrel-Aged Porter, starts life as a rich porter brewed with chocolate maltsand spices that is then barrel-aged for 3 months in fresh bourbon barrels.
Juicy Double [Double IPA (8.3% ABV/ 70 IBU)]: Juicy Double is a crisp Double India Pale Ale brewed with Orange Juice for a refreshing citrus finish. Brewed with 7 hop varieties, this Imperial India Pale Ale weighs in at 8.3% ABV with an IBU of 70. The bold hop character is nicely balanced with the citrus from the orange juice.
Keller Marzen [German Lager (6.3% ABV/ (NA) IBU)]: Our brewers traveled overseas to brew this limited release beer with our friends at Spaten Brauerei, the oldest brewery in Munich. It pays tribute to time honored Bavarian brewing traditions of brewing a stronger beer in March, lagering for many months and tapping the unfiltered beer at the end of the summer for Oktoberfest. The result is a smooth, malty and unfiltered golden lager with light, bready sweetness and a delicate German hop character.
Islay Scotch Barrel Stout [Imperial Stout (13.3% ABV/ (NA) IBU)]: Imperial stout aged in Ardbeg Scotch barrels for 15 months. Featured at the Festival of Barrel Aged Beers this weekend and here only (was there the weekend of Nov 9-11). Dense black with a viscous body and smoke and peat notes.
Flight Of V Pale Ale: No Description Available.
Noel [Belgian Style Dark Ale (9.5% ABV/ 15 IBU)]: In Belgium, Noël beers were released at the end of the year as a special, limited release to thank loyal brewery customers for their support throughout the year. Goose Island Noël is an un-spiced Belgian-style, Dark Ale with balanced notes of caramelized sugar, toasted bread, black cherry, and dried apricot all in a warm, deep-mahogany body. This beer was brewed to celebrate the past year and toast the new year to come. From our brewers to you and yours, cheers and happy holidays.
Sofie [Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale (6.5% ABV/ 20 IBU)]: Our sparkling Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale is wine barrel-aged with an abundance of hand-zested orange peel. Spicy white pepper notes contrast the citrus tartness. The light, refreshing, creamy vanilla finish will excite those fond of Champagne. Originally brewed by Belgian farmers to attract the best farm hands, we were inspired to brew an exceptional ale as inviting as the original Belgian Farmhouse ales. Light and effervescent, we named it for our founder’s granddaughter Sofie.
Juliet [Belgian Style Wild Ale (8.0% ABV/ 15 IBU)]: A tart, jammy, complex ale fermented with wild yeast and aged in wine barrels with fresh blackberries, with notes of wood, tannin, and spice. Inspired by sour beers from the Cantillon Brewery in Belgium, Juliet is a tart, jammy, complex ale fermented with wild yeast and aged in wine barrels with fifty pounds of fresh locally sourced blackberries, with notes of wood, tannin, and spice.
Bourbon County Wheat Wine [Wheat Wine (15% ABV/ (NA) IBU)]: Brewed in honor of the 1000th batch at our original Clybourn brewpub. A liquid as dark and dense as a black hole with thick foam the color of a bourbon barrel. The nose is an intense mix of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke. One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer.
Here’s what I thought:
Honkers Ale: This one is an English Bitter. It has flowery/citrusy scents. Very aromatic. Tasted like flowers as well. Light. Crisp & refreshing.
Cooper Project No. 3: This one smells like a straight cask which was followed by a bit of chocolatey scents. It was actually quite light & crisp. It completely envelopes your palette.
Juicy Double: This one actually had quite the light scent. Not too hoppy at all. And the tastes were extremely light, smooth and crisp. It was not overbearing in the least.
Keller Marzen: Malty scents and it tasted malty as well. It had slight citrus tastes but was extremely crisp.
Islay Scotch Barrel Stout: You can smell the cask that the beer has been fermenting in. You can legit get light headed and feel tipsy by just smelling it. Has a smoky aftertaste, kind of like the whisky (barrel) the beer was aging in. Delicious, smooth, light & milky (the mouthfeel).
Flight Of V Pale Ale: Smells super hoppy; but you can smell the malts as well with a tinge of citrus. The taste though is not as hoppy as it smells. Crisp. Refreshing.
Noel: Had a bready/malty taste with a bit of a Belgian beer, just not as spiced. It was actually quite crisp for it’s colour.
Sofie: This one was actually put in wine barrels instead of whiskey barrels. Scents of a Belgian beer; crisp, light and refreshing. It’s kind of like a light Belgian. You get different tastes with each sip you take. And there were hints of citrus in the aftertaste as well.
Juliet: This one had fruity, citrusy scents. Kind of like blackberries. But when you sip it back, this one smacks you in the mouth. But it was also, crisp, light, delicious & tart.
Bourbon County Wheat Wine: Has aromas like it was taken straight out of a cask. You can taste & smell the bourbon barrel that this beer was sitting in. Light, a bit malty with some caramel notes as well.
So all in all with the ambiance of the brewery, the rich history and the beers we were served I would give Goose Island Brewing Company 5 out of 5 piggys!
They give dope tours with a flight of tastings [(3) per tour] for only $12!
Website: Goose Island Brewing Company
Facebook: Goose Island Brewing Company