OT - Craft beer sadness

Submitted by JeepinBen on March 28th, 2011 at 9:40 AM

For all the fans out there of Chicago Based Goose Island Beers...


Anheuser Busch is buying them. Hopefully they will let Goose Island keep brewing their own stuff and they wont mess with success.  The 312 is my favorite wheat (more beer less citrus than say, a Blue Moon or Oberon) and Matilda is just delicious. 

My last time in Chicago I saw that they have a "Green Line" brew, which is brewed using all local ingredients, sold only in Kegs only in Chicago, and for way cheap. I thought that was a cool thing, and hopefully some of those small business style things keep going. 

Any other Goose Island fans out there? Any other similar beer suggestions for when/if AB screws this up?


EDIT: WSJ Article has a pretty... upbeat take on it http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110328-709258.html talks about how GI was struggling to meet demand, and most of the staff (less the Brewmaster) is staying put



March 28th, 2011 at 10:22 AM ^

I will readily drink it because it is priced the same as Bud Light and Miller, but 312 is still a pretty generic wheat beer.  The only things Goose Island has been doing recently that set them apart from the big boys are the craft Matilda's and Bourbon County Stout's, and I really hope they don't lose.


March 28th, 2011 at 11:05 AM ^

I also prefer Oberon, but maybe that's just some of my Michigan homerism. It was one of the first craft brews I tried on tap (craft beer, particularly on tap, was/is hard to come by for 17 year olds.)

But Summer Shandy - god that stuff is awful. If I got to a party and was offered only the choice of that or Natural Ice...I would have to think about it.


March 28th, 2011 at 2:50 PM ^

I am not defending summer shandy because I don't like it very much. but I don't think its fair to compare a shandy to any other beer besides other shandys. because a shandy is just a mixed drink using beer instead of liquor. its half lemonade half beer. on super hot summer days it is nice to mix my own shandy but the bottled stuff is like country made lemonade and terrible beer.


March 28th, 2011 at 9:55 AM ^

Trust me, I celebrate and partake in celebrating Oberon Day but I think it is hands down the most overrated beer out there.  I'll drink 4-5 per spring/summer and then move on to something else that is lighter -- like Hendrick's and club soda with a lime.  Or a lighter IPA.  Oberon just doesn't do it for me on a 90 degree, humid day.


March 28th, 2011 at 10:48 AM ^

Oberon and 312 aren't really comparable beers, but both are good.  As Goose Island states on thier menu, 312 is a "session beer" for extended drinking, much like a bud light or miller light but with actual flavor and taste.

Green Line is a good beer if you really like pale ales, otherwise I find most people don't care for it much.  I enjoy it on tap whenever I find it.

Three Flyod's is where it's at though for Chicagoland breweries.  Gumball Head is obviously good, Artic Panzer Wolf if you can find it is really good and Pride and Joy is really really good.  I heard a rumor its on tap at Toons in Southport, gotta check it out.

Wes Mantooth

March 28th, 2011 at 11:25 AM ^

I just had my first Green Line this weekend and I thought it was awesome.  I'm a big fan of Pale Ales, so it's definitely the kind of beer I like.

And I couldn't agree more about Three Floyds.  They have a really good selection of beers.  I was talking with some friends about making the trip to Indiana to visit the brewery.  Problem is finding a sober driver to get us home.


March 28th, 2011 at 11:39 AM ^

Make sure you get there early.  I went down there a couple of months ago on a random saturday.  We arrived around 1:30 I'd say and it was already at capacity so we had to wait outside for a table.  It wasn't a long wait, maybe 20 mins, and definitely worth it.  I'd skip the tour though (unless you've never been on a brewery tour) and just sample the beverages.  Place was small, but awesome and the staff was great.


March 28th, 2011 at 9:55 AM ^

They better not fuck up their Belgian Pale Ales. Also, they better keep their hands off the "extreme" ales like Bourbon County.

If they bought GI with the intent of maximizing distribution for 312 and Honkers, I think this is actually a good move, provided the rest of the brewery see some of the extra revenue and it isn't all going to theme parks and making an extra Natty Light.

Yinka Double Dare

March 28th, 2011 at 10:02 AM ^

The brewmaster Greg Hall is also stepping down.  Hopefully they're promoting from within and this doesn't change things much, because the last few years they really expanded their lineup and were doing a lot of interesting beers.

One upshot: I'd guess there's a good chance this could mean the return of the Nut Brown and Oatmeal Stout, which they had stopped brewing because it didn't sell as well as some of the others and they were trying to find more capacity anywhere they could, so they ended up cutting beers.  That should no longer be a problem with AB owning it.


March 28th, 2011 at 10:08 AM ^

Well that's what I get for not reading the article. Yes, hopefully from within; I was at their Clybourn Brewpub two weeks ago and everyone seemed really excited about everything they're doing (granted those are relatively low level employees).

Hopefully AB sticks to distribution and maybe some economy of scale stuff and leaves GI relatively autonomous.

Yinka Double Dare

March 28th, 2011 at 11:29 AM ^

They're apparently leaving GI's management in place (John Hall will still be the CEO/president/whatever position) so it sounds like they don't really want to change much.  Goose was actively looking for more investment because they are at their limits for capacity (hence cutting two beers, now are having some beer contract brewed, etc.) and I'd guess AB knows they obviously have the brewing capacity and money to let them expand as much and as fast as the market allows.

Edit: The new Brewmaster is a promotion from within, he has been their Head Brewer for the last year after spending 5 years at the same job at Deschutes (which is a great brewery as well).


March 28th, 2011 at 10:01 AM ^

I wouldn't worry too much about it.  Redhook and Widmer, two Pacific Northwest brands, haven't changed significantly since AB took them over.

I did see that their brewmaster is stepping down, that may lead to the most change.

This might, in fact, be a good change... AB has the ability to greatly expand Goose Island's distribution network.


March 28th, 2011 at 10:02 AM ^

There's a reason Green Line is cheaper.  That's probably the only way they could sell it. 

It was new to me too the last time I was back in Chicago but the server flat out told me "No" when I asked for one. He brought me a Matilda instead.  I asked for a taster still and I must say Green Line was one of the most tasteless swill I've ever had. 

At least AB has been expanding past pilsners since they were bought out by InBev.


March 28th, 2011 at 10:06 AM ^

I don't know how you can call Green Line "tasteless swill" but to each his own. Personally, I think it's a decent brew. Matilda is probably their finest product and 312 is good but not great. Goose Island does put out very good beer; here's to hoping that continues.


March 28th, 2011 at 10:10 AM ^

What usually happens when Big Beer buys Little Beer?  Anyone?

I'd expect Anheuser Busch to simultaneously ramp up advertising, bring THE BRAND to every corner of the U.S., and water down the product to cut costs.  Starving out local suppliers would be part of the process.  (Aside: I always imagine an Ohio State MBA Excel jockey behind maneuvers like that.)


March 28th, 2011 at 5:58 PM ^

That's what happened when 7Up/Dr. Pepper bought Vernors.

Once upon a time, Dr. Vernor's Ginger Ale was barrel aged 3 years for that fantastic sneeze and cough effect.

In other beer news: The food town around the corner from here had a Frankenmuth Brewing Co 12 pack sampler in store, so I guess FBC is distributing now, which makes me a happy camper.


March 28th, 2011 at 10:18 AM ^

Unfortunately what makes microbrews great is in the name: 'micro'. From a manufacturing standpoint, It's their small scale that allows them to make such high quality, delicious craft brews. IMO, we've seen Bell's stuff take a bath from a quality perspective (let's be honest, Oberon is a SHELL of what it used to be.  That crap they put out last summer? Garbage) since they've expanded. My greatest fear, living in downtown Grand Rapids, is what will happen to Founders now that they're expanding. I can't imagine this move will be a positive one for Goose Island. It will definitely increase their brand, but I don't think it will reflect positively on their quality.

That being said, Bourbon County is just a fucking great barrel-aged stout. I hope their short run, tier 2-3 beers stay classy (Sophie, BC, Matilda, etc). Never much cared for their tier-one stuff.

03 Blue 07

March 28th, 2011 at 10:34 AM ^

Okay, thank you- after reading your comment, I feel a little better in my opinion that Oberon just doesn't taste like it used to/as good as it used to back in, say, 2001 or so, or at least it didn't last year.


March 28th, 2011 at 11:42 AM ^

There's nothing technically that prevents a mass-produced beer from being great. The brewers at A-B are technically extremely good brewers. The irony is that you have to be a damn good brewer to make something as flavorless as Budweiser. Beers with more flavor hide mistakes better than beers with less flavor, and when you're brewing something with as little flavor as Bud or its equivalent there isn't any room to hide your mistakes.

What does prevent mass-produced beer from being great is management. Management chooses to use crappy recipes, because that's their market wants. Management chooses to use lots of corn or rice and to wave a handful of hop cones in the general direction of the brewery to save costs. Management chooses to spend the money they save on marketing.

To show an example of the difference a recipe and some half-way decent ingredients can make, look at the history of Sam Adams. (Not my favorite beer, but if you can catch one in good shape it's a decent beer, and it was one of the first widely available decent American beers since Prohibition.) Originally Sam Adams (or at least a lot of it) was done through contract brewing. One of the places where they made it was at the old Hudepohl brewery in Cincinnati (which they eventually bought). Hudepohl made awful beer. Awful, awful beer. Yet Sam Adams, brewed at the same facility by the same brewmasters, was a decent beer.



March 28th, 2011 at 10:21 AM ^


Hey if all else fails, you could try to brew your own. I know there are a few clone recipes out there. While your water and yeast would be different, maybe you'll come out with something you like even better.


March 28th, 2011 at 10:27 AM ^

Home-brewing is a wonderful hobby, and something I've been doing for a couple years now. It is very rewarding because it's such a tremendous investment. The sanitization methods you need to make successful beer are... cumbersome at best. Not to mention, the slightest fluxuation in temperature during fermentation, yeast strains, grain roasting, can have a significant effect on the final product.

This is where expanding breweries run into trouble. Making consistent tasting beers becomes very difficult as you increase manufacturing runs. Budweiser / Miller can do it because they make such shitty nonsense to begin with.


March 28th, 2011 at 10:58 AM ^

For the occasional homebrewer, yeast strains and grain roasting aren't a problem since that's all left up to the manufacturers of the ingredients. I think as long as you keep your ingredients and methodology the same, differences in taste wouldn't be very discernable for a lot of hobbyists (unless something like sanitization is really screwed up, which can usually be prevented by not being lazy). Maybe it doesn't taste exactly how you wanted, but it's almost always drinkable, and then you just try again.