2022 US Trip – Day 15 (Chicago – Goose Island – Fulton Street Taproom Tour)
After having visited the taproom of Goose Island, it was then time to go on the tour that I had pre-booked a few weeks before. The tour guide was knowledgeable and engaging, with the tour lasting just over an hour or so. I’ve gone on a lot of brewery tours over the years and I’m never quite sure that I understand entirely what is going on as there are some many bits of polished metal kit about, but I think I’ve worked the basics out. I’m fairly confident that I’ll never be a brewer though.
There were numerous samples available and the guide allowed visitors to try whichever beers they wanted from this list. With the exception of BCS2022 (Bourbon County Stout) of course, that’s off limits for the moment.
The bottling part of the operation.
Some of the giant beer tanks and I’d note that I had come the furthest of anyone on the tour. Indeed, I was the only one from outside the United States.
Everything about this operation was substantial. As some back history to all of this, Goose Island was formed by John Hall after he travelled around Europe and decided that he thought Americans should be treated to some craft beer. It would be nice to say that Goose Island is an independent company, but they’re owned by Anheuser-Busch who also produce, if I’m being honest, some generic rubbish as well. But they haven’t ruined Goose Island, so I have no complaints and indeed it was only following the takeover that the brewery’s beers became more widely available.
This is the innovation centre where they brew up small batches of beer.
It was quite interesting reading the sheets of paper where the ingredients are listed and what has been amended during the brewing process. I thought that I’d better not take a photo that could be zoomed in on, just in case I was accused of breaching some commercial secret.
After the brewery tour we then went across to the facilities on the other side of the road, but this shows just a part of the large brewery complex that Goose Island have here. This brewery building was opened in 1995, although it has doubled in size since then and it is now 143,000 square feet in size.
This is a warehouse where I understand the infamous Bourbon County Stouts were once stored, but they’ve been moved now and this whole room is more for display than anything else. This exciting bourbon aged beer is something that they’ve been doing since 1992 and they’re now perhaps the best in the world in brewing this type of product.
Although some of the barrels are full.
These are all old wine casks, where they, and I quote, “use wine casks as an environment for beer, wild yeast and fresh fruit to ferment for nearly a year”.
The vineyard label is still visible on the cask.
I hope that’s not a leakage of Bourbon County Stout.
More tasters were offered and this one has yet to be given a name, which means it’s a loss to Untappd…. A nice rye beer though.
I mentioned in my taproom post that I had perhaps the best beer that I’ve ever had, the Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout 2015. This is the 14% version from 2021, which I thought I had tried in Goose Island in Shoreditch, but that transpired to be the 2020 edition. That made this free taster even more exciting as it was another one in the series I got to try and it was once again remarkable. Decadent, rich and with flavours of chocolate, molasses, whiskey and some more subtle notes, all quite beautiful.
I thought that the tour was entertaining, factual and I was pleased with how many free tasters of beer that were available, that was more agreeable. They did also offer everyone a free pint glass, but there was no way that I was going to try and get that back, so they gave me several branded plastic Goose Island glasses as well, which I’m pleased to note did get back safely. The tour is $15 and it’s worth it for the tasters alone, so well worth a little visit. It’s fair to say that I left the Goose Island premises entirely happy with my afternoon out.