Friday, April 16, 2010

The Goose Ax

KC Wort Hog has some interesting Goose Island news.
Goose Island has been full of news lately. First, news that they're killing distribution of their Nut Brown & Oatmeal Stout.
Additionally, Goose Island explained on Facebook that "in the competition for fermentation capacity, tap handles, and shelf space, Nut Brown and Oatmeal Stout have been disadvantaged by the increasing popularity of hoppy, wheat, sour, and barrel aged beer styles. We are grateful for the few loyal aficionados who have enjoyed our old friends until the end. To you, we can offer only assurance that the Goose Island brewpubs will continue to brew regular batches of both beers and offer them by the pint and by the growler to enjoy at home."
Damn, this is a blow. I love the Nut Brown ale, there just aren't that many nut brown ales and Goose made a great one. I'm assuming they're still going to be distributing Summertime.

I'm not a huge sour beer fan. I love Matilda, but their other big beers don't do much for me. I need to be better about trying them.

This is also interesting because Anheuser-Busch owned a stake in them which Goose only agreed to in order to take advantage of AB's distribution. Now they're saying they're pulling beers because it's tough to get shelf space? It doesn't make much sense, they have the advantage that most brewers don't have. Plus, the beers they're pulling are good, solid beers that are accessible to the beer novice.

Another interesting aspect is that Boulevard is going the other way courting beer novices with an Amber brew. This means that the average little neighborhood liquor store will have at least 6 Boulevard facings (Pilsner, Amber, Wheat, Pale Ale, Single Wide and Seasonal) with as many as 11(Variety Pack, Pale Ale and Wheat 12 packs, Dry Stout and soon to be released Pilsner 12 packs). This is great for Boulevard but it does squeeze out some beers that are as good or better. Boulevard did expand by going all Smokestack on us, but they also have release Pilsner and soon Amber expanding both ways. It's just strange that Goose isn't doing that as well.

I'll get by, but I'm going to miss the Nut Brown Ale, a beer that was my favorite for some time in 2001 and 2002. If I wouldn't have Bully! Porter, I'm sure that Nut Brown would have been my gateway beer. It will be nice to get more of the higher end beer from Goose, but I don't like that it comes at the expense of a very good session beer.


  1. I love brown ales, so this is indeed crappy news. I've recently tried the Night Stalker and Demolition from Goose Island. I thought the Demolition was a quality Belgium ale, and the Night Stalker is crazy to try and describe. Never excepted so much hops on the first sip of an imperial stout.

    Bourbon County is the only big bottle of theirs I don't like, but I don't like any brewery's bourbon anything.

  2. This irritates me. I think their Oatmeal Stout is a very good beer as well, and frankly I'm in sort of a backlash mode right now. I'm getting "extreme beer fatigue", and all I've been buying lately are $8-$9 six packs. I'll be back to the heavy stuff soon enough, but right now I just want to enjoy beers like these two.

  3. My assumption when I heard this was that since Anheuser Busch is also distributing Widmer and Redhook and Goose Island has more beer geek cred than either they want Goose Island to focus on beer geek beers. They can sell a Widmer Hef or a Redhook ESB for every Goose Island brown that sold.

  4. JJS, I'm with you, the big and extreme beers get tiring. I try to limit myself on them and only get ones that really interest me like the Fritz and Ken's from Sierra Nevada. I get so much enjoyment from a simple sixer of Lagunitas Pale Ale or Schlafly No. 15 an extreme hop bomb or high alcohol beer is unnecessary.

    John, good point, there's probably truth to that. But, I think that people trust the Goose name more than Red Hook or Widmer. Maybe that's just because I'm a midwesterner and I go to the Goose brewpub every couple of years. Hell, I'm wearing a Goose Island shirt right now.

  5. Widmer and Redhook get mad respect out there, largely because Northwest people have had some interesting beers from them you haven't seen. Goose Island though is well respected everywhere, largely on the back of the excellent Bourbon County Stout (excellent and innovative as that beer, served at GABF in 92 really was on the cutting edge of what we now recognize as the bourbon barrel trend).

    Widmer gets respect from me for the Collaborator project.

    For fans of these beers, I'll recommend New Holland's The Poet as a good oatmeal stout with a similar interpretation as GI (anderson valley barney flats is good too, but a different approach) and then Avery Ellie's Brown as a good and broadly similar Northern English Brown Ale.

  6. GI may have a distribution advantage, but do the big "extreme" brews or the trends in beer really keep any brewery the size of GI in business? For someone like myself it's easy to get caught up in the news and hype of a new big beer on the horizon and rush to go get it when it launches, only to find it on the shelf weeks or months later. The beer enthusiast community alone isn't supporting many breweries. I may not buy much, if any, Boulevard Pale Ale or Wheat, but it's thanks to these year-round flagship cash-cows and the people who buy them that Boulevard has the assets to churn out new exciting stuff on the Smokestack line. As with any business decision, I'm sure we don't know the whole story.

    Also, I loved their Oatmeal Stout, it was the staple I used to measure other beers of its genre up to. Maybe GI's full-time beers just lacked clever/interesting/ridiculous names (like Tactical Nuclear Penguin). GI could keep brewing these two up, put them in bombers and give them crazy names. Beer nerds everywhere would love it.

  7. I could take or leave Goose Island's Oatmeal Stout, but the Nut Brown is really good, especially with food (of pretty much any type) and particularly cheese. If AVBC ever pulls Barney Flats, though, I am going to kill myself.

  8. I don't think big beers would keep an independent brewery the size of GI in business, but GI is not independent anymore. I think this decision was made in a context bigger than GI.

  9. This is really too bad, both of these beers are solid session beers, and are some of the best examples of each of their styles. They are two of the most approachable beers, so I'm really surprised to hear there's not much demand for them.

    I've already picked up a 12 of Nut Brown, but the store I stopped at was out of Oatmeal Stout and said they were getting no more shipments of either. I haven't been to Gomer's yet, is there much of either left on the shelves in the area? I plan to pick up a 12 of Oatmeal Stout to savor.

    I'm with the others who are a bit "extreme'd" out. They are fun to try, but it seems like there's a constant stream of new beers, to the point where I don't even feel I get to enjoy them for long.

  10. Yum, Beer!, Investor #1, and myself brewed a clone of the Goose Island Nut Brown a week ago. Transferred to the secondary fermenter today. 6 weeks from now, we'll tip a few back remember the real thing. Welcome to join, of course.