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.

Brew Day – Vanilla Porter

We were in Binny’s last weekend (the one by Goose Island Clybourn) and noticed a sign advertising that they are going to be hosting a home brew competition event in April (for Sam Adam’s Longshot Home Brew contest). I’ve wanted to enter the competition for a few years now, but I always seemed to miss it. You have to brew 6 weeks to two months in advanced, depending on the style (sometimes even longer). I just never found out about it in time to have something ready to enter.

Since I have plenty of lead time, I decided to give it a shot this year. The recipe choice was obvious; The one original recipe that I brew that is universally praised by all that have tried it is the Vanilla Porter. So, I went to the home brew store today, got what I needed, and brewed up a batch.

I ran into problems the last time I brewed the Vanilla Porter: I deviated a bit from my normal procedure, and also used a yeast that I harvested from a previous batch, which didn’t work out too well (the fermentation never kicked off, and I ended up throwing some dry yeast I keep on hand for emergencies on it). This time I stuck to the script: I used my tried-and-true methods and bought some fresh yeast. I was also very careful with my sanitation procedures (as I will be on bottling day in a few weeks).

Hopefully, come mid April, I’ll have a top-notch brew ready to enter the competition. (At the very least, I’ll have a really good beer to drink!)

Finished Before it Started

So, in my last post (over a month ago – I really gotta get on the ball here), I mentioned a new music project I was working on. Well, that fell apart. We ended up playing one open-mic, then the singer decided he really didn’t have the time to devote to regular rehearsals and song-writing.

Oh, well.

It is a bit frustrating. I really miss playing in a band. Playing in the Grateful Dead ensemble at the Old Town (which I was doing for a while) is fun, but it’s not the same. I miss the creative input. The collaboration of developing an idea into a song. Just getting out and playing music is not enough.

I’ve got an ad out on Craigslist looking for musicians, and I’m thinking of seeing if any of the people who I played with in the GD ensemble are interested in starting a “real” band.

We’ll see.

Batch #50

It’s Been a While

Wow. It’s been so long since my last post here I forgot my password! I am involved in a new music project, so hopefully I’ll have more to write about as things progress on that front. In the mean time, I thought I’d end the dry spell with some beer news.

Batch #50

This past weekend I racked* my 50th batch of beer. I didn’t notice the milestone until I logged the batch into the spreadsheet I use to keep track. Had I realized, I would have tried to do something special for this batch. As it was, it just ended up being a basic porter thrown together with left over ingredients from previous recipes.

Oh, well. It should turn out to be a decent beer, at any rate.

Batch #49

The batch before the 50th, however, turned out to be an amazing beer. I brewed a Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter. It was based on the Norther Brewer Bourbon Barrel Porter recipe, with some minor modifications.

The “barrel aging” is faked, of course. You take oak chips (or cubes) and soak them for a few days in a top quality bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark, as the recipe suggests), then add the wood and bourbon to the beer in the secondary fermenter.

The beer came out great, the best thing I’ve done in a long time. (This was welcome after this year’s Vanilla Porter did not turn out that great.) I took some to a holiday party last Friday and it was universally praised by all who tasted it.

Maybe I’ll hang on to this recipe for the 100th Batch milestone. That is, if I don’t miss that one, too


*Transferred to the secondary fermenter.

What Apple Should Do With the iPod Classic

This is something I’ve been thinking about a fair bit lately, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here. After all, it’s been over a month since I posted anything. (I blame Twitter – most quick thoughts end up get whittled down to less than 140 characters now, whereas I used to expand on those thoughts. This definitely warrants more than 140 characters.)

Earlier this month Apple announced the new iPods. Before the event, some of the tech blogs wondered if we’d see the elimination of the iPod Classic. Of course, that didn’t happen. There’s still a market for the device, and it still makes money for Apple. I find myself squarely in the target demographic for the iPod Classic. Some people care about storage capacity more than running apps and whatnot. We’ve already got iPhones for apps, some of us don’t mind having a separate device for music.

I have a large collection of music in my iTunes library. My iPhone only holds 16GB. Sure I could have gone with the 32GB one, but it wouldn’t have been enough. My 80GB iPod Classic is full, so there would be really no point in a 32GB iPhone for me.

It’s not just the size of my collection, either, but the fact that I have many files that are in either Apple’s lossless format (ALAC), or at least saved at much higher bitrates than what most people use for their digital music. These files take up much more room than the mp3s most people listen to (and sound much better, as a result).

So, I, and people like myself, are the target for the Classic. People who have large collections of music in higher quality formats.

And, when I say my iPod is full, I mean I have to be selective about the music sync to my iPod. I was hoping this month’s iPod announcements would include either a price drop on the existing models, or larger capacity iPods. Neither of these things happened.

So now, if I decide to upgrade my current 80GB model, my only option is 160GB. That’ll do for now, but I know myself; I’ll keep adding to my collection, using higher quality formats, and that 160GB will fill up in no time.

I’m sure you see the point I’m getting at: If people like me are the target demographic for the larger capacity iPods, then Apple should increase the capacity, and they should keep doing this every year as storage technology advances.

What’s more, Apple needs to revisit the capabilities of the current iPod Classic. I don’t mean by adding apps and whatnot, but rather improve what it already does. What do I mean by this? I have files in my library that I can’t even play on my iPod because they are a higher resolution than what it supports. According to the spec page for the Classic, 320 Kbps is the highest it supports*. This is fine for most people, but I’ve got high-def ALAC files that are up to 2800 Kbps. I can’t even load those on my iPod.

Also, I don’t understand why Apple hasn’t added FLAC support to the iPod. Yes, ALAC is technically equivalent to FLAC, but FLAC is the preferred format for higher-quality audio files. Although, both Livephish.com and Livedownloads.com both now offer ALAC as an option, but they’re the exception. People who trade live recordings (legally) tend to use FLAC. There are tools, of course, to convert FLAC into ALAC or AAC, but it’s a pain to constantly have to do this.

I’m glad Apple didn’t discontinue the Classic, as some people predicted. But, I would love to see some updates to the beloved model. So, Apple, do us a favor: Update the Classic with higher storage capacity, support for higher bitrates, and FLAC support.

Sincerely,

Your customers who still buy the iPod Classic.


*The support page only lists bit rates for AAC and MP3, but not for ALAC. The Classic may support higher bit rates for ALAC, but I can’t find anything that says what the max is. I just know it won’t play (or even sync) 2800 Kbps files. Also, it occurs to me that the bit rate might not be the problem, it could be the sample size and sample rate (which, for the files in question is 24 bit/96kHz). Either way, it would be nice if the iPod Classic support high-def files.

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: