• Loaded nachos go with a good lager, like a taut Pilsner or doughy Helles—you want something that’s light but which can lift the heavy cheese and salsa.
• Garlic cheese fries is a California bar snack and it calls for a West Coast IPA. Garlic and hops are best buddies, the salt loves the booze and bitterness, and the cheese enhances the malt.
Wings in tangy hot buffalo sauce need a good chocolate-y
• Porter to smother them in fire-fighting malt sweetness.
• Cheeseburger always goes with IPA. Don’t bother ordering anything else. Hops love cheese, juicy meat, and all the sweet condiments.
Great American Beer And Food Guide Photo Gallery
• Mac ‘n’ cheese goes with a malty Pale Ale, the old-school kind, the one with a round, caramel-y body of sweetness and a powerful bitterness.
• Chicken tenders with Double IPA. I genuinely don’t know if this is the best pairing, all I know is that I’ve only ever had chicken tenders with DIPA and it’s always a wonderful combination.
• Wood-fired pizzas want a dark lager (or a gentle Stout), something toasty with malt and dry to finish, where that malt darkness matches the singe on the edge of the crust.
• A bowl of chili wants a Milk Stout, something to cool down the heat and add a smooth, sweet, cocoa quality that enriches the chili.
Goose Island’s Barrel Program
A WONDER OF THE BEER WORLD
It’s the smell that hits you first, a knockout, heavyweight hook to the olfactory bulb, a wallop of wine, a slug of bourbon, the sweet, sweet wood, the unmistakable fizzy fermentation, that deep, eternal, preternaturally attractive aroma of sugars magically turning into alcohol. As you walk through this warren of wood, this temple of barrels, you’ll , fuzzy fruitiness of never quite figure out or comprehend how big it is, how many barrels there are, how much beer is stored in them, how much life these barrels have lived, how many people have tasted something which previously lived within them, whether this is a wine, a whiskey, or another beer, or even how long ago those seeds sprouted and started growing into trees, which are now living a new life as casks filled with beer.
In 1992, Goose Island filled six Jim Beam bourbon barrels with Imperial Stout as a special for the brewpub’s 1,000th batch—they were probably the first brewery ever to use ex-whiskey barrels to age beer, a significant credit in the history of craft beer. They’ve since gone on to turn their barrel house into the largest of its kind—around 140,000 square feet (13,000 square meters) with tens of thousands of barrels— and have also added wine and other alcohol barrels to their stable. There are beers containing coffee, fruited brews, soured ales, beers aged in rare and very old bourbon barrels.
Bourbon County Brand Stout is the most famous one produced at Goose Island—an intense behemoth of thick, rich dark beer with the deep, deep depth of bourbon, vanilla, wood, and cherries.
The Barrel House, or The Staviary, is insane. It’s also not particularly easy to visit. To gain access you will need to look up events months in advance, befriend brewery employees, walk past in the hope of catching a whiff of the heavenly insides, or do whatever you can to get in. And, when you’re there, take a few minutes to just breathe in, to deep-inhale the headiest air your lungs ever have joyously taken in. I think breweries smell good, but a warehouse with tens of thousands of barrels filled with strong ale is one of the most intoxicating aromas in the world of beer.
WHAT: Goose Island Beer Company
HOW: The Tap Room is open Thursday to Sunday (opening times vary each day, so check the website in advance). You can also my blog a tour of the production brewery (www. gooseisland.com).
WHERE: 1800 West Fulton Street, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA
The stout is aged for 8-12 months in oak barrels, where the variences in Chicago’s climate—cold winters and hot summers —help draw out the flavors of the wood.
Lagunitas Brewing Company, Chicago
If you want to see what craft beer can do, how big it can be, just how impressively massive, then go to Lagunitas (2607 West 17th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60608). It’s the largest and most open craft brewery I’ve been to, one which pulls you in through a glowing backlight corridor of a psychedelic trip to a bar of US$5 pints, which keeps you there with an elevated walkway around the whole, wowingly huge, spaceship-like brewery, and one which kicks you out with glassy eyes and a goofy smile. Lagunitas was bought by Heineken in 2017 and it’ll probably soon be the largest craft brewery in the world. That means the Chicago brewery is only going to get bigger and more extraordinary. Go there, get a pint of IPA, and walk around looking over at the stainless-steel city beneath and all around you. Once the barrels are blended, the result is a truly world-class stout.