Our famous beer began with a trip across Europe when Goose Island founder (and unabashed beer lover) John Hall took a tour across the continent. Pint by pint, he savored the styles and selections of brews in every region, and thought to himself, “America deserves some damn fine beer like this, too.”
Craft brewing wasn’t widely known at the time, but upon return from his European sojourn, John set out to change all that. He settled down in his hometown of Chicago—a city perfect for craft beer, with rapidly evolving tastes and the largest system of fresh water on the planet. And then he got to brewing. Goose Island began as a single brewpub opened in 1988 in Lincoln Park, Chicago, and named after a nearby island.
First, he made some stellar beer. Then he invited his consumers in to watch his process at the brewery, bringing them behind the scenes every step of the way. The result was a new fascination with craft brewing and beer that not only catered to people’s tastes but challenged them as well.
That was back in 1988, and we haven’t slowed down since. By 1995, John’s beer had become so popular that he decided to open a larger brewery, along with a bottling plant to keep up with demand. 1999 brought even more growth, along with and a second brewpub, in Wrigleyville. After a stake of the company was sold to Widmer Brothers Brewery in 2006, the brewery was able to expand into different markets and today, what was once one man’s pint-filled dream has become the Goose Island empire you know and love.
In 2011, Goose Island Beer Company was acquired by Anheuser-Busch but it still remains a subsidiary of the Fulton Street brewery. Since then, we’ve continued to brew beer that we’re proud of and now we get to share these beers with our friends both nationwide and internationally. Greg Hall stepped down as brewmaster with the AB InBev purchase in 2011; Brett Porter was hired as the new brewmaster.
Goose Island currently operates different concept locations across the globe, with brewpubs in Toronto, São Paulo, Seoul and Shanghai; a pub in Monterrey, Mexico; Philadelphia and a vintage ale house in Balham, London. The vintage ale house in Balham has since closed in the spring of 2018 to make way for another brewpub in the Shoreditch area of London.
Our brewery was built in 1995 and has more than doubled in size since originally built. We bring you our tasty pints using 32 fermenters, over 15 different yeasts, state-of-the-art filters, centrifuges and a 50 barrel JV Northwest 5 vessel system that brews 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It turns out that making awesome brews is quite the science. Luckily our brewery facilities have all the equipment necessary to deliver results.
Our packaging line alone bottles 500 cases an hour, with our keg line at a rate of 50 kegs every 60 minutes. Once the beer is complete, we store it at a crisp 38 degrees until shipping. In other words, we don’t mess around when it comes to filling the Goose Island demand. We even have separate rooms to house small batch innovation programs and yeast propagation units, and our barrel-aged beers have their own dedicated stockroom AND 143,000 square foot barrel warehouse.
In 1992, Goose Island gave the beer industry a new reason to belly up to the bar: bourbon-aged beer. We pioneered the process, and it begins with first-use bourbon barrels. Our brewers only choose those that have had held sweet, sweet whiskey in their bellies for an average of 8 years, then they age our beer inside for 8-12 months. This process takes place in a non-climate controlled space, allowing exposure to the extreme heat and cold of Chicago’s ecosystem, which contracts and expands the wood, pulling the barrel’s whiskey character into our brew. Each barrel is used only once, ensuring the best quality taste in every pint.
That first barrel-aging process yielded our ever-tasty Bourbon County Stout back in 2004. Three years later, we decided it was time to expand our barrel-aging program again. But this time our brewers brought wine barrels into the picture.
They started with beer that had undergone primary fermentation in stainless steel casks, then transferred it to wine barrels, soaked with flavor. Next came fresh fruit and wild yeasts, and the beginning of a secondary fermentation inside the barrel. Aging went on for 9-18 months, creating beer with unprecedented depth of character, increased acidity and a light essence of fruit without too much sweetness. The variety of wine barrels we use now yield some of our most unique brews, including Sofie, Juliet, Lolita, Madame Rose, Gillian and Halia.
Goose Island Beer Co., exists to lead in the craft of brewing by creating award-winning beers that define classic and innovative styles to capture the hearts, imaginations, and palates of beer drinkers.