Friday, December 4, 2009

Goose Island gets it's due

Down In One
by Roger Protz, The Guardian (UK)

The United States is currently enjoying a revolution in craft brewing with more than 1,300 "micro" breweries. Their sales grew by 16% last year and they now enjoy a market share of more than 10%. Many of these "micros" are extremely big by British standards: Sierra Nevada in Chico, California, for example, produces 800,000 barrels a year. Its Pale Ale and India Pale Ale are sold in Britain.

Prohibition in the 1920s and 30s destroyed a brewing industry with a rich heritage of British and German-style beers. Only a handful of giants, led by Anheuser-Busch with Budweiser, saturated the vast market afterwards with thin and insipid interpretations of lager. The label on a bottle of Bud, for example, announces it is brewed from the finest rice, barley malt and hops. Rice is tasteless and sums up the beer. Other giant breweries use large amounts of cheap corn.

In 1965, a beer aficionado named Fritz Maytag bought the ailing Anchor Steam Brewery in San Francisco and fired the first shots in the second American revolution. The success of his beers encouraged others to open small commercial plants. Some were enthusiastic followers of the Campaign for Real Ale in Britain; others of German descent have fashioned lagers of such quality they should bring
a blush to Budweiser's cheeks. Today the likes of Brooklyn Brewery in New York City, Pike and Redhook in Seattle, Rogue in Newport, Oregon, and Samuel Adams in Boston are a power in the land. And Goose Island IPA from Chicago, on sale in Britain, may just be the best beer in the world.

Here's a great way to start the New Year - put simply, this is one of the finest new beers I have tasted for some time. Goose Island is a micro-brewery in Chicago - I've visited and revelled in the beers, and now, thankfully, Safeway is making this IPA available here. Brewed with awesome dedication to the English style of the early 19th century, it uses just pale malt and a massive dose of hops. The hops in question are American Cascade, English Fuggles and Styrian Goldings from Slovenia, with American Centennial used for 'dry hopping' - which means adding hops after fermentation, to deepen the aroma and palate. Those hops create 70 units of bitterness, around twice the rate for a typical English bitter.

This 5.9% beer has an intense aroma of sultana fruit and spicy hops, with tart fruit, juicy malt and bitter hops in the mouth, while the finish is dominated by a rich fruitiness reminiscent of blood oranges, balanced by a quinine-like bitterness from the hops. The beer is filtered but not pasteurised. And it's a snip at £1.29 for a 35.5cl bottle.