You might have noticed that it’s been a little quiet around here lately. That’s probably because I was really busy
getting drunk in quietly exploring the wonderful city of Chicago, Illinois. Sorry, Dad. (Yes, he reads this. Yes, I know it’s super cute). In all fairness I was there during the weekend in which St. Patrick’s Day fell so, it’s pretty much par for the course. Anyways, while I was in town I knew I wanted to check out a brewery – deciding on which one however, proved to be the more difficult task. Chicago, like New York, and most cities in general these days, has a ton of great breweries. In fact, this article has compiled a handy-dandy list of ’em for your next visit to the Windy City. But with everything from the powerhouses of Goose Island Beer Co., Lagunitas, and Revolution Brewing, to the new kid on the block in Hopewell Brewing Company, and all of the brewpubs in between, it’ll be hard to pick just one!
My friends and I finally settled on Goose Island – to me it’s just the quintessential “Chicago Brewery.” Agree to disagree, if you will. The craziest part of Goose Island Beer Co. is that up until two years ago, there wasn’t even a taproom to visit. Goose Island entered the Craft Beer arena way back in 1988, with their brewery and bottling plant being established in 1995. But it wasn’t for another 20 years, until May of 2015, that their taproom opened to the public at their Fulton St. Brewery location. Our tour guide explained to us that as the Craft Beer industry garnered more and more of a following within the past few years, it became increasingly apparent that operating a tap room and brewery tours were a necessary part of remaining relevant amongst craft beer enthusiasts. And so it was.
On Saturday afternoon we made our way to the industrial Fulton River District to visit the Fulton St. Goose Island Location (don’t go to the wrong location for your tour like we did, it’s easy to do, check your confirmation email for Christ’s sake!). We were running
20 min. a few min. late and I tried to act like a blogger big shot but my beard cladded tour guide wasn’t really having it, and gave me crap right back. Fine. Fair. I’m pretty sure we’re still besties. The hour-long tour took us from a fermentation room to an innovation room that houses small-batch beer creations, to a barrel-aging warehouse, and allowed us to sample about 3 different beers along the way. At the end of the tour we each received a Goose Island pint glass and hung out in the taproom to taste some of the beers they had available there.
One of the main reasons I wanted to check out Goose Island Beer Co. while in Chicago, and one of my favorite parts of the tour was the barrel-aged series. Goose Island was the founding father of bourbon barrel-aged beer. How cool!? Starting back in 1992 they began using barrels that only previously held bourbon for at least 8 years to age their beer. Once their brew is ready it is stashed into a bourbon barrel for about 8-12 months and held within a non-climate controlled warehouse right there in Chicago. The non-climate control part is really key. Being in Chicago the air goes from very cold in the winter to very warm in the summer and this extreme variation allows the barrels to expand and contract adding increased bourbon flavor to the beer.
My favorite fact of this whole saga is that in 1995 Goose Island took their Bourbon County Brand Stout to the Great American Beer Festival. Okay wait for it, it gets cooler. Since no one was yet doing the whole bourbon barrel thing – they were disqualified as there was no category of which their beer fit! It was given an honorable mention though, since there was no denying it was pretty
damn darn good. Today it is now an award winning beer having taken home the 2006 World Beer Cup Gold, among others. While I was disappointed that there was no Bourbon County available to taste in the taproom the day I visited, I got a close second with their special St. Paddy’s Day stout.
To date, Goose Island Beer Co. was easily my favorite brewery tour and I would suggest it to anyone making a trip to Chicago. Their guides are knowledgable, friendly, and hysterical. Open to all of my numerous and
definitely probably annoying questions, they answered everything off-the-cuff and honestly. My friends and I all had a wonderful time and enjoyed some amazing beers in the process. I look forward to getting my hands on as many of those delicious barrel-aged beers that I can in the future. Also, geese don’t quack, they honk. In case you were confused.
Goose Island Beer Co.
1800 W. Fulton St.
Chicago, IL 60612
Tours are 12$ – must buy tickets in advance here
Taproom open Thur/Fri 2pm-8pm and Sat/Sun noon-6pm
*The Clybourn Brewpub is currently closed due to renovation and will re-open this summer 2017. For future reference the address is:
1800 N Clybourn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614