Touring the giants: Goose Island
Okay so I already know what you're saying "Goose Island isn't craft." But I really think that if you took a look at their facility, family rich history and saw all of the experimental beers on tap in their Fulton street taproom, you might think a little differently.
I took their 2pm Saturday tour, arriving at about 1:30 for a pre-tour beer (duh!). Make sure you ask for it in a plastic cup so that you can take it on the tour with you. For my "traveling beer" I got their Fulton Street Blend, a blonde coffee ale. You already know how I feel about coffee ales and this one was no different. The aging with Intelligentsia coffee was a fantastic choice...their coffee is fantastic let alone paired with a great beer.
So, I'm not going to get into great detail with the tour because I really think that you should take it for yourself. Buuuuut, it starts off up on their brewing deck where you get "Beer 101" and get to try Honkers Ale, the beer that got Goose Island on the map. It's a super smooth English style bitter, try it, its grand. You then are taken through all of the different steps of the brewing process sampling beers along the way. I think my favorite part was the sheer size of production. Its really incredible that their brewers are able to get the same beer every time and at such massive quantities.
Large quantity beers are not all they do. They also have a smaller R&D lab where brewers can sign up for time on the tanks and brew literally whatever they want. If people in the Fulton taproom like what they made, it gets scaled up in production. What's even cooler is that anyone that works there, regardless of brewing experience can pitch their idea for beer to a brewer and if they think its a good/feasible idea then they make it. Crazy right?! Needless to say, I would absolutely love to work here. *If you go to the taproom semi soon and want to try an experimental, Hot Potatoes and Missed the Boat were some of my favorites!*
The tour then ends in a small corner of their onsite barrel house. This place is incredible, to burst your bubble, no its not where they house the BCBS. Seeing the floor to ceiling barrels is astounding. You really need to see it for yourself. There is a lot of really awesome history explained in this room that you really just need to hear from them....I wouldn't do it justice.
So moral of the story...if you find yourself in Chicago take the tour. It's $12 and you get beer samples and a snazzy pint glass at the end. If my sad, broke grad student self can afford it, you can too!
P.S. you get to wear awesome safety glasses!