Goose Island: India Pale Ale
When John Hall began Goose Island as a single brewpub in Lincoln Park, Chicago, in 1988, craft beer constituted a very niche segment of the U.S. beer industry, a specialty product with small-batch distribution limited to immediate localities. Today, craft brewing has rapidly evolved into its own distinct and formidable industry, and Hall proudly claims a small part in bringing the European craze stateside. "America deserves some damn fine beer like this too," was the Goose Island founder's thought during a tasting tour across the continent. Along with several other varieties of beer, Goose Island's India Pale Ale is an inspired mix of old world and new world, more flavorful than your average English IPA and brewed using the Midwest's bountiful freshwater reserves.
This year, Goose Island celebrates its official 25-year anniversary, and has reopened their flagship brewery on West Fulton Street to the public for the first time since its inception in 1995. Over the years, the brewery has more than doubled in size, and currently houses 32 fermenters, state-of-the-art filters, centrifuges, and a 50-barrel vessel system that brews nonstop. In the early days of the company, Hall would invite local customers to watch the brewing process with hopes that it would nurture an interest in craft beers. Today, visitors from all over the country can watch the packaging line churn out 500 cases an hour, with the keg line at a rate of 50 kegs every 60 minutes. They can also take a peek at the separate rooms used to house small-batch innovation programs and yeast-propagation units, as well as the 143,000-square-foot barrel warehouse for their barrel-aged beers.
When IPA's were first brewed in England and exported to British troops in India during the late 1700s, the malt, hops, and alcohol content were generously upped to act as a natural preservative for the long haul. And though its distinct flavor has pragmatic origins, the bold hoppy character of an IPA is what its avid drinkers look for every time. Goose Island's version is brewed with Pilgrim, Styrian, Golding, Celeia, Cascade, and Centennial hops. They sound like Game of Thrones characters, and the results they yield are just as legendary. The bottle pours a deep bourbon color with a bright creamy head and immediately gives off a fruity aroma most reminiscent of grapefruit. To set off the fruit, there's a dry malt middle followed by a memorably long hop finish that will delight hop lovers everywhere. The dry bitter finish is not overwhelming, but it is substantial enough to cut through the strong flavors of blue cheese, aged Gouda, curries, and hot wings, which are all highly recommended pairings. Overall, Goose Island IPA is a well-balanced beer that goes for big flavor profiles without compromising on hops — a savvy reincarnation of an old world favorite.