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Goose Island Leading the Trends in Craft Beer

Are you ready for beer and food pairings?

It was almost two years ago when The Food Channel called out Craft Beers as a growing trend. We even reported that hundreds of craft breweries would open across the nation.

Our forecast was accurate, and we continue to watch the trend bubble up, so to speak.

But even in the midst of the trend, there is one brewing company that is catching notice for its innovation and distinct flavor pairings. Goose Island, called “Chicago’s Craft Beer,” actually opened a brew pub in 1988, and has built on that to a distribution that now extends across 36 states . . . and they aren’t done yet.

Adam Lilly, Brand Director for Goose Island, sat down long enough to fill us in on the growing company. He agrees that they are definitely riding the craft beer trend, saying, “The trends are continuing to push boundaries with ingredients and processes.”

For Goose Island, that means everything from barrel aging their beer to working with chefs to come up with distinct beers that pair well with certain foods.

Start with the barrel aging. For those who don’t know, in the beer world most beer goes into a stainless steel fermenter for 14 days. Lilly says that their beer, however, is aged in barrels for anything from eight to twelve months.

Then there are the pairings. Lilly says, “As a brewery, we are leading the craft in pairing beer and food.” They actually brew beers to complement the flavors of food, taking into consideration the way people progress through a meal, from appetizer to dessert, and coming up with recommendations for the various foods.

Lilly says the Sofie, for example, will “complement the light, fresh flavors at the start of a meal, like salad or ceviche.” It has a hint of orange peel, and is aged in wine barrels—and will, he says, “warm up the palate.”

The Matilda is brewed specifically for white meats, and its caramel malt goes well with something savory and slightly salty. For roasted meats, Lilly recommends the Pepe, brewed with dark roasted malt and black pepper—great with mushrooms, grilled steaks and stews.

At the end of the meal, he suggests something like a Pere Jacque, a sweeter flavor with “lots of malt and a fruity flavor—a great complement for something sweet, and a good contrast to dark chocolate or a salty fruit or cheese plate.”

Sound like a lot to learn?

Lilly says that education is part of the whole process—and fascination—with craft beer. “We do an enormous amount of education and training, host a lot of beer dinners, and do lots of samplings,” he explains.

From the aging to the education, everything Goose Island does comes down to what Lilly calls, “the passion of our employees for food and beer.” That passion is what led them to explore actual pairings, in the style of wine pairings, which is new territory for beer.

“It was a way to differentiate our story out there,” he explains. “We are now customizing our beers with different chefs in a continuous collaboration series.” The first in that series is the Marisol, made in conjunction with Chef Rick Bayless, known for his Mexican-style restaurants in the Chicago area. “We brewed the Marisol specifically to complement Latin flavors,” says Lilly. “It’s refreshing and easy to drink.”

In other words, craft beer has found its place in the market, and Goose Island is continuing to innovate. “We are thrilled by people’s interest in making beer,” says Lilly. “The more people who are passionate about it, and who make beer a part of their lives, the better—we love that.”