Goose Island is one of the more polarizing names in the craft beer community. Between 1988 and 2011, craft beer fans delighted at flavorful brews like Matilda, Gillian and the ever-popular Bourbon County Stout. Then the Anheuser-Busch acquisition happened, and Goose Island suddenly found themselves persona non grata in the eyes of many craft beer traditionalists. Despite their detractors, the crew from Chicago can still draw a crowd, and they drew quite a large one for Wednesday’s Migration Week tap takeover at OB Noodle House.
Packed into an outdoor beer garden, Goose Island founder John Hall and company carefully kept the Blackhawks/Kings game in their collective peripheral vision while answering questions about beer, brewing and big business. “People who are against big business are never going to be happy,” said Hall. “The bottom line is that we’re able to brew better, more consistent beer at multiple locations, which is no easy feat. People were concerned that the quality of beer would change, and it has changed for the better.”
As the crowd mingled with the Goose Island crew, rare beers from the Goose Island archives made their way around the bar. Sample pours of Pappy Van Winkle and Vanilla variants of Bourbon County Stout instantly created lines of 30 people, while others partook in sours like Gillian and Juliette. One of the more interesting beers was Rasselbock, a tap-only entry in Goose Island’s Fulton and Wood innovation series that’s only available outside of Chicago during Migration Week events.
The Goose Island team is used to fielding all of the questions from craft beer purists, and they gladly take the opportunity to make their case for how things have improved for them since the purchase. “It’s kind of like having a rich uncle,” said brewer Patrick Reisch. “They’re not quite hovering over you like a parent, but when you need money to do something, they find a way to get it done for you.”