Goose Island One Year Later

Over a year ago, the Goose Island Brewery was bought out by AB InBev.  This caused a stir, not only in Chicago, but nationwide in the craft beer community.  A recent article at the Chicagoist.com by Paul Schneider stirred up this old “controversy”.  I don’t have anything to add to what he said.  Go read his article, and his follow up on his chitownontap.com blog:

The Honk Heard Around the World: Goose Island One Year After the Sale

Echoes of A Honk Heard Round the World: Revisiting the Sale of Goose Island

I would, however, like to expand on what I wrote about the sale at the time:

More on the Goose Island Deal

(This is from the comment I left on the article at Paul’s blog.)

In that post I wrote: “One of the things that’s bothered me with Goose Island recently is they’ve stopped releasing beers like their Oatmeal Stout, and the Hex-Nut Brown so that they could pump out more and more or the 312. If this deal allows them to ramp up production, to keep up with demand, of the 312, but still produce things like Oatmeal Stout and Hex-Nut Brown, then that’s good.”

And what’s happened since?  312 production has moved to other facilities, Hex Nut is back on the shelves (still waiting for the Oatmeal Stout), and Bourbon County will become a year ’round offering.  They’ve expanded their Barrel program and continue to experiment and innovate.

These are all good things, and none of this would have been possible without the AB InBev deal.  I can’t believe there are people who sill hold a grudge against Goose Island (and the people who work there).

I can’t wait to see what Goose Island does in the future.

More on the Goose Island Deal

Yesterday’s news (Anheuser-Busch InBev to take over Goose Island) caused a huge stir in the craft brew world, and in Chicago. “Goose Island” was a national trending topic on Twitter for part of yesterday. Beer blogs and comment boards were lit up with worry and speculation (and accusations that Goose Island is “selling out”).

Well, finally last night, came word via Goose Island’s Twitter feed on their side of the story:

In response to today’s deal with AB…This will allow us to make more beer as opposed to discontinuing medal winning brands due to capacity.

We will continue to be a Chicago brewery, to invest in Chicago brewing facilities/jobs, & support Chicago’s cultural and environmental orgs.

We will always be driven by the art of beer. Our team of brewers, led by Brett Porter is the same as it has been for some time.

Our innovation will be expanded, including new styles, as a result of not having as much limitation on capacity.

Our brew pubs are not a part of this deal and the pub brewers will continue as usual.

I take that as good news. One of the things that’s bothered me with Goose Island recently is they’ve stopped releasing beers like their Oatmeal Stout, and the Hex-Nut Brown so that they could pump out more and more or the 312. If this deal allows them to ramp up production, to keep up with demand, of the 312, but still produce things like Oatmeal Stout and Hex-Nut Brown, then that’s good.

Also, the fact that the brewpubs are independent and not part of the deal is great news.

Again, I’m taking a “wait and see” approach. I haven’t already written them off, like some people. If this deal simply means AB taking over production of 312 (and, honestly, who really cares if they cut corners on that one?), but the Fulton Street brewery continues to produce quality beers, and return old favorites to the shelves, I’m all for it.

Anheuser-Busch InBev to take over Goose Island

Not the news I wanted on what’s already a pretty crappy Monday morning:

A-B Acquires Goose Island
Anheuser-Busch to take over Goose Island

I’m not really sure what to make of this, though. This could actually be a good thing. I know Goose Island has been struggling to meet demand, and that looks like the driving factor in this decision. And, A-B sees the value in the higher-end beer market. As long as they don’t mess with how things are done, it may be okay.

The articles state that John Hall will be staying on as CEO and overseeing production, so that’s a good sign. But, Brewmaster Greg Hall is stepping down, so that’s potentially a bad sign.

Even though initially dismayed by this news, I’m going to try to take a “wait and see” approach to this. I’ll continue going to the brewpub, and I’ll continue buying their beers off the shelf. I’m not going to just stop patronizing Goose Island on “principle”, or anything like that.

But, if they start messing with the recipes, or start using cheaper ingredients, or there is any noticeable decline in quality, there are plenty of other craft brew establishments in Chicago I can take my business.

South Pond at Lincoln Park Zoo

The other day I arrived early to pick up Carrie from work and had some time to kill.  I decided to go for a walk and check out the newly rehabbed South Pond at Lincoln Park Zoo (the Pond is not actually part of the zoo, it’s part of the park, but LPZ is responsible for it now that the rehab is done).

If you’re unaware, the pond just went through a major rehabilitation project to turn it into a more natural habitat.  You can read a little more about the project here: Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.

At any rate, they did a magnificent job.  Walking around the pond, the feeling is of being far away from the city, except you have the magnificent skyline as the backdrop.  It’s a wonderful experience.  Some of the indigenous plant-life that was added has not fully grown out yet, but when it does it will add to the allusion of being a million miles from nowhere.

If you’re in the city, or coming for a visit, it is definitely worth checking out.

I took some photos while I was there.  You can head over to my Flickr page to check them out: South Pond at Lincoln Park Zoo.

South Pond at Lincoln Park Zoo

It’s almost here…

This morning I noticed the scaffolding had been taken off the front of the building under construction at North and Halsted.  The logo on the front of the building was covered with a black cloth/tarp, but it was easily discernible.  I didn’t have enough time to get out my iPhone and grab a picture before the light changed (I’ll try tomorrow).

It won’t be long now.  Does anyone know if there’s a scheduled opening date yet for the new Apple Store?

UPDATE:

New Apple Store

Managed to snap a pic as I was driving by today:

You Say You Want a Revolution

I finally made it to Revolution Brewing last night, so I thought I’d share my opinions.  Short version: it did not live up to the hype.

Before I get into the food and (more importantly) the beer, let’s talk about the ambiance.  The space is nicely designed from a visual standpoint – wide open with a large bar in the middle – but the first thing you notice is the noise level.  The wide open design, with large, flat brick walls, causes table conversation to be amplified to an annoying level.  So much so that it’s difficult to actually carry on a conversation in the place.  Something needs to be done about that – it’s the single worst aspect of the place.

I was impressed, however, by the fact that there weren’t TVs showing sports everywhere you looked.  There was a single TV over the bar, which wasn’t even turned on.  That makes it clear Revolution is trying to be more of a restaurant than a bar.

Apart from that, the service was a little slow.  While I was waiting for a table (I was the first of my party to arrive and had put my name on the waiting list) it took a while to find a free space at the bar to sit down and order a drink.  Once I did however, I sat there waiting for one of the bartenders to acknowledge my presence, even though they had each walked past where I was sitting several times.  One even filled a growler for someone who came up to the bar right next to me (apparently a “regular” who, obviously, deserved  more attention than me) before asking me for my order.

Also, I thought it was odd that they held my credit card to run a tab.  For a place that’s striving to feel more like a restaurant than a bar, I thought that was odd.  It’s something dive bars, college bars and obnoxious trendy “clubs” do.  Restaurants keep track of your drink orders then transfer your tab to your table when you’re finally seated, or until you’re ready to pay at the bar.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a place that held your credit card to run a tab.

On to the beer.  Overall, I was not impressed.  The beers I had were good, but not great.  I started with the Workingman Mild.  I wanted to start with a lower alcohol brew, and I was curious if theirs suffered from the lack of flavor that affects many lower alcohol beers.  I have to say that it had more flavor than expected, but still it was pretty average.

The next beer was the Working Woman Brown.  I was very disappointed in this one.  It didn’t taste much like a brown at all.  Browns should be malty, with maybe a little bit of a biscuit flavor, and maybe a little bit of sweetness.  This one was hoppy.  The hoppiness masked any malt/biscuit/sweet that you would expect in a brown.

After dinner I had the Eugene porter.  This was easily the best of the three beers that I tried.  Where the Workingman had more flavor than you would expect from a 3.5% ABV brew, the Eugene didn’t taste like a 7% ABV brew (which I think is a good thing in this instance).  It just tasted like a full, robust porter.  Though, I would have liked a little more of that roasted flavor that some porters have.

The food was probably the best part.  I had the Forest Burger (with Gorgonzola cheese, cremini mushrooms, and crispy shallots) and it was delicious.  My dining companions each had a different burger, one the Workingman Burger (aged cheddar, beer onion and bacon) and the other a mushroom-swiss (which wasn’t on the menu, but they made for him anyway).  They both agreed that the burgers were excellent.

My only complaint with the food was that the fries were those skinny “shoe-string” style fries (the menu calls them “hand-cut frites”), which I absolutely hate (besides the fact that these were over-cooked).  I honestly don’t know anyone who prefers shoe-string fries.  I think some restaurants use them because they mistakenly think they are somehow “classier” than regular fries or steak-house style fries.  They’re not, and you’re a brewpub, so get over yourself.  Goose Island (Clybourn) served the shoe-string fries for a while right after they changed their menu, but thankfully they switched back (we actually complained about it).  I think Revolution is trying to project the image of a being more of a classy restaurant than a brewpub, which is ironic given the their name, and the names of their beers and some menu items – not to mention their location.

All in all, I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there again.  Maybe if I happened to be in the area, and I happened to be hungry, I would stop in.  If I do go back, I’ll definitely explore the menu beyond the burgers (but I certainly won’t try the fish and chips, knowing that it’ll come with those abysmal, over cooked shoe-string fries).

To sum up:

Over-hyped, by far.

Pros: Good (but not great) beer.  Really good food.  Not being bombarded by sports on the TV.

Cons: Noisy acoustics.  Slow service. Shoe-string fries. Disappointing beer (the biggest flaw for a place with “Brewing” in their name).