From what we can recall, between the lectures, the readings, the exams, and the relative poverty, post-secondary education was kind of a drag.
But it turns out we just went to the wrong school.
Goose Island is a Chicago-based craft brewer who launched their brand 27 years ago in a brew-pub serving “classic style” bitter ales to locals. Since then, they’ve expanded to multiple production facilities (including their most recent one in Montreal), over 30 different labels available during varying months and seasons, and a 130,000 sq. ft. facility dedicated to their barrel-aging program.
Since 1988, Goose Island has flown a long way and with them have brought a practice of innovative, passionate brewing that has contributed to a thriving Canadian craft culture that is growing rapidly each year. So in the interests of education – or what we now like to call, “Higher Slurrning” – we went to Goose U for a crash-course in craft beer appreciation.
And while the science of it all was fascinating, and the history captivating, the most notable lesson was the diversity available in the production, and ultimately the taste and application of different beers.
Take for instance, Goose Island’s line of “Vintage Ales”. These are flavourful, lively, character-rich beers with some, like their Lolita label, sold in 765mL bottles sporting minimalist, wine-esque packaging. Not only do these beers look different, but they couldn’t taste less like a Bud Light if they tried. One of the reasons is because a number of these beers are aged for up to two years in wine and bourbon barrels – some of which are topped off with 50 pounds of raspberries for infusion.
Not to mention the experimentation they’re doing with tequila, brandy, and rum barrels.
Yes, we tried some of the experimental stuff. And yes, it works.
The result of this process is not something you’ll see being chugged at a baseball game, but instead something you’ll find thoughtfully paired with a blackened piece of lamb or a tray of east-coast oysters. Or if you enter certain grocery stores in Quebec, something you’ll find displayed alongside the cheeses.
In fact, with all of their beers, they provide serving suggestions that include food pairings, cheese pairings, and preferred glass shape. On first glance this felt like a strategic hijacking of the wine MO, but after going through the full curriculum and taking all the taste tests, we were nothing short of schooled on what the right beer could do with the right dish.
But don’t worry – we didn’t skip the class on the more broadly swiggable “Session” ales, or what could also be called, “You’re About to Drink a Lot of These” ales.
Most memorable was the classic English-style Goose IPA. While this beer was particularly hoppy – a claim we can make with confidence now that we actually know what hops look, feel, and smell like – it came in light and went down fast.
Which would explain why next month they’re launching it in volume-friendly 6-packs and 12-packs at both the LCBO and Beer Stores across Ontario. A decision, we’d like to note, that was made before they saw us drink it.
Hey, as far as we’re concerned, a pint a minute is still a perfectly elegant pace for a “tasting”.
Ultimately, Goose Island taught us about beers for every personality, every palette, and every plate, which up until this week, was an experience we had only ever expected from a wine sommelier. Very quickly, the whole craft beer craze made a lot more sense.
And we weren’t even wearing plaid.