Goose Island IPA is a classic beer of the craft movement which most people have tried. Its popularity has grown to the point that you can now find it in most UK supermarkets and even on airlines! Other beers from this Chicago brewery are harder to find in the UK, so when the chance to perform a brew with Tim Faith, the innovation brewer at Goose Island at UBrew, a favourite haunt of mine came about I jumped at the chance to get my brew on and learn some more about a brewery that has had quite a journey from its humble beginnings in 1988.
Goose Island IPA was one of the first craft beers that I ever had and as such it has always held a special place for me. I think it is a great sessionable IPA with a decent hop character to it that doesn't over power on the bitterness front. Other than the IPA, the only other exposure I have had to the world of Goose Island beers has been Honker's Ale, which was inspired by the creator of the brewery drinking Fullers London Pride on a trip to Europe and is a good tribute to that classic English bitter marrying mild fruit hop aroma with rich malt to make a very well balanced beer. I have over the years heard about the infamous Bourbon County Stout range that they release every year on Black Friday, but have never seen any in the UK. So when the opportunity arose to meet Tim Faith the innovation brewer of Goose Island and take part in a collaboration brew with him, as well as quiz him on his background and brewing aspirations including tasting some of the more special beer offerings from Goose I understandably jumped at the chance.
Like most people Tim's first foray into the world of brewing was in college. He first started with brewing on the top of a stove at his parents house during the summers and then more regularly during term time on campus. It was a medical internship in Sydney, Australia that proved to be a seminal moment in his brewing career, where he gained a greater appreciation for beer and upon his return he took the plunge to switch majors to microbiology from pre-med. With the help of his Professor and the college he designed an internship at a local microbrewery to study yeast and learn the operation of brewing and cellaring. After graduation he was taken on as a cellarman and then worked his way through various brewer roles to become the innovation brewer at Goose Island. This role at Goose revolves around cultivating creativity in the brewing team, as well as carrying out experimental trials, blending and flavour infusion and specialty wood projects as well as running the brewery pilot facility.
Experimentation is a key part of the role that Tim plays at Goose Island and this was the theme for the evenings brew. We were going to be producing a single hopped pale using an experimental hop from the American Dwarf Hop Association called ADHA529. From a tea that was made using this hop aromas of lemon, mint, tangerine and celery were to the fore and with it having an alpha acid content of ~10% I could envisage some strong bitterness coming through in the final product as well. Throughout the evening Tim was also imparting some brewing top tips and lessons of what to make sure you do and don't do:
Do: Clean, control water chemistry, control mash temperature, perform a secondary fermentation, clean, control fermentation temperature and clean!
Don't: Over sparge, under and over pitch yeast, over mill the grain as it releases tannins and polyphenols, rush, sprage too quickly as you won't get good sugar extraction and will bring through unwanted flavour compounds, aerate pre-fermentation as this increases the chances of Obesumbacterium proteus infecting your wort (among other things) which producing DMS and diacetyl as well as supressing the fermentation.
General information: Calcium Sulphate (gypsum) is a great hop sparkler and its content should be fairly high in your water chemistry when brewing pale ales, if your mash pH is greater than 5.8 you will extract polyphenols which will increase the bitterness of your beer, calcium chloride adds some malty sweetness and increases yeast flocculation (clumping) as well as trub separation. A mash of temperature of lower than 67oC will result in a dryer final product.
The evening wasn't all just brewing however there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy some Goose Island beers including what was allegedly the first keg of Honker's Ale to be tapped in Europe. Additionally, there were a number of rarer beers for us to enjoy, these were Sofie a barrel aged saison which used wheat in the grain bill, Matilda a tribute to the Orval monastery and named after the Countess which founded it and the 2015 Bourbon County Stout.
Sofie, 6.5-7% ABV - Named after the granddaughter of the Goose Island founder John Hall, this is a saison which includes wheat in the grain bill and where a proportion of it is aged in wine barrels for three months with oranges to impart a smooth grape and citrus character to the beer which counteracts the Brett which is used as an oxygen scavenger to help increase the shelf life of the product as well as giving the beer a mild funk flavour.
Matilda, 7% ABV - Named after the Countess who created the Orval monastery this is a Belgian Pale Ale which uses the Orval yeast which was acquired by John Hall during a visit, the only person to ever successfully do this. This beer uses Brett to impart a stronger farmhouse character which also comes from a longer conditioning step and has a phenol and ester forward nature to it.
Bourbon County Stout, 13-15% ABV - One abomination of a beer which utilises a double mash to extract as much sugar from the grain as possible. This is then followed by a four hour boil which only stops when the wort hits a specific gravity of 1.129! After fermentation the beer is then matured in Bourbon barrels for an average of 12 months before bottling. The barrels are exposed to the ambient temperature conditions for the whole year as the expansion and contraction of the wood helps to impart the woody and Bourbon character to the beer. This is a smooth bourbon rich, woody, earthy stunner of a beer.
After the brewing and tastings I had my thirst for good beer thoroughly sated and we put the fermenters containing the experimental brew into the fermentation room. At this point I got to ask Tim a couple more questions around his aspirations in brewing. "My aspirations are to navigate through the world of sours, explore and develop new beers that retain both flavour and sessionability. I get inspiration through both history and story telling, but ultimately I follow my palate and brew what I like to drink." And what he thinks of the UK craft beer scene. "I like the camaraderie between brewers here in London which is paralleled to Chicago's brewers guild. I think the beer here [London] is on an equal plane with the US and that the smaller brewers are a growing share of the pie."
My experience from this collaboration brew with Goose Island and UBrew has been nothing but positive I learnt a lot about what Goose Island are doing to try and push the boundaries of what flavours we can expect from a beer as well as getting to understand the inspiration from the people behind the product. I can't wait to go back in a few weeks time to pick up my bottles of what I'm affectionately calling Goslings Gaggle Pale Ale.