Getting ready to be gone nearly every weekend for the next month, including nine days in Colorado, means that I am not tapping a keg for the better part of a month. To get my beer fix I have been trolling the beer cooler at the liquor store looking for something new.
Amazingly, the shelves are full of new beers from new breweries all of the time. Some of them are good and, of course, some of them are not quite up to snuff. It’s easy to pass over beers from breweries that have been on the shelf for a while. This is the way it is with me and Goose Island.
John Hall, the founder of Goose Island, is a Hawkeye having graduated from the same MBA program as me, but his career path was decidedly different. During b-school we made a trip to Chicago to visit the brewery and have a reception at the brewpub in Lincoln Park. I remember being amazed at some of the beers being made under the Vintage Ales appellation. Matilda, in particular, was a revelation in that a beer with low bitterness and fairly high alcohol could be so drinkable. For a short time I was a big evangelist of Goose Island, but lost some of my fervor as so many new breweries have come on line.
To rectify the situation I picked up a package of 312 Urban Pale Ale:
This is a well-crafted and balanced pale ale that comes in on the lighter side of things. Of low bitterness (30 IBU), especially for a pale ale in America, and middling alcohol (5.4% ABV) there is not a thing out of place when you drink this beer. It is akin to a “house beer” that is always on tap and always in demand, but not something that people think of when considering a signature beer of the brewery.
Craft beer is odd that way anymore. Gallons of ink and thousands of hours are spent extolling the virtues of increasingly esoteric styles of beer—including by me on this very blog—but the vast majority of craft beer consumed in America is of a very narrow range. It’s not the Pareto principle per se, but I imagine that 20% or less of the labels account for 80% or more of the craft beer sales in America. Think about what you saw people quaffing over the holiday weekend? I remember seeing a lot of Samuel Adams Boston Lager and New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale. This was in Minneapolis where great local beers are available widely.
Nonetheless, we should not discount the appeal of a well-crafted and balanced beer that you can purchase without fear of offending anyone’s tastes. Try that with a sour beer sometime. Overall, well played Goose Island: