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For Christina Perozzi, the senior manager of education at Goose Island, balancing fresh ideas in the brewery while preserving the brand’s legacy is crucial to Goose Island’s success. “We want to stay loyal to all the beer drinkers who love Goose Island for our flagship beers,” she says, “but at the same time, craft breweries are innovators, and we need to innovate.”
This drive, she adds, is embodied in the brewery’s 312 Urban Wheat and its new 312 Dry-Hopped. The 312 Urban Wheat is an unfiltered summer ale that takes its name from the Chicago area code of the original brewery—it’s become synonymous with summer among Goose Island’s loyal local fanbase. The 312 Dry-Hopped is an Urban Wheat–style ale that puts a unique spin on the Chicago classic; the beer is dry-hopped to enhance its hoppiness. After testing well in Chicago, the 312 Dry-Hopped is scheduled for national distribution this year.
“We love to use our Chicago taproom as a place to test new beers and see what people like,” says Bobby Banahan, Goose Island’s senior brand manager. Another beer that tested well in the Chicago area—and will also be released nationally this year—is the Next Coast IPA. Banahan calls it a standout IPA that remains approachable. “It’s 7% ABV, but it doesn’t drink like it’s 7%,” he says. “It combines the best of East Coast and West Coast IPAs—with the tropical flavors of the East Coast style and the classic pine notes of the West Coast style.”
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Much of the innovation at Goose Island happens slowly within the wooden casks of the company’s barrel warehouse. “We were the first people to commercially produce a beer that was aged in bourbon barrels,” says Perozzi, referring to the Bourbon County Brand Stout, which has a cult-like following among beer aficionados. First brewed in the mid-1990s, the stout kicked off a series of barrel-aged brews that continue to push the envelope for beer enthusiasts seeking new, fresh, and innovative flavors.
“Pairing beer with food has become an important part of our program with on-premise accounts,” says Perozzi. “And our beers are brewed for food.” She says that much of her role in education at Goose Island focuses on finding inventive pairings similar to those promoted by the wine category. “This,” she adds, “is really what a lot of restaurant and on-premise accounts like about our beers.”
Since joining Anheuser-Busch in 2011, Goose Island has remained true to its roots as a craft brewer while tapping into expanded resources and ingredients to move its beers forward. For example, the brewery’s new relationship with Elk Mountain Farms in Idaho—a 1,700-acre “hop heaven”—has enabled its brewers to source from 10 primary hop varieties and to tinker with more than 108 experimental varieties.
Banahan also notes that Anheuser-Busch’s scale has allowed Goose Island to ensure “ridiculously high quality standards” for all its beers. “You can really count on Goose Island for consistency and quality,” he says. “And our distribution allows us to be available no matter where you are in the country.”
From Goose IPA to Matilda, a Trappist-style ale, Goose Island offers the beer category a compelling approach that satisfies popular tastes and rewards those who venture out of their comfort zone.
The Anheuser-Busch brands deliver enhanced sales for restaurateurs because of the way in which they tap into regional and demographic taste sensibilities.